Tribeca’s Kitchen looks to lead the way in the New York COVID-19 recovery process after death and closure.
The hardships the restaurant industry has been facing over the last 12 months have been frontpage news ever since the lockdown began, but there is far more to the story than bold, catchy headlines. Countless business owners and employees have been living dramatic stories worthy of television and film portrayal rife with tear-jerking anecdotes. No one in the hospitality field is more aware of this than owner of Tribeca’s Kitchen, Andy Koutsoudakis Jr.
Son of a Greek immigrant who traveled to the United States at age 14, Koutsoudakis Jr. was literally born into the restaurant business. Although he considers owning an eatery a second job, his father was a dad, mentor, and boss who guided him through life— right up until the COVID-19 pandemic reached the city.
A mere week after closing the store due to the outbreak, Andy Koutsoudakis Sr.—the restaurant’s previous proprietor—died in March, and is among the first to pass away from the deadly virus as it began its reign of destruction across New York. Within a matter of days Koutsoudakis Jr. lost the business he had known all his life, and his beloved father to the same, invisible killer.
“My mom got sick on March 11th, she sent us a picture of her thermometer—it was like 99. The next day it is going up to 100, 101, 102, 103. [Dad] went home on the 12th and that Sunday we decided we were going to close because we were dealing with employees and customers. My parents completely quarantined—they wouldn’t open the door for me. I brought them food and whatever they needed but their fevers were like 106. He went into the hospital on Saturday the 21st and that was it. I talked to him once and just… gone. Just like that, gone,” Koutsoudakis Jr said, tears welling in his eyes.
Like others in his line of work throughout Manhattan, Koutsoudakis Jr. sees the novel coronavirus as the biggest disaster since the 9/11 terror attacks, a date he can remember all too well. Koutsoudakis Jr. can vividly recall his father returning home on that historic day in 2001 covered head to toe in white dust caused by the falling structures. Still, despite his own personal relationships with the traumas generated by both calamities, he still looks at the situation objectively, believing COVID-19 is an even greater disaster due to its global ramifications.
“If you believe in one God or another it doesn’t matter, it was a message: we are all different, but we are also exactly the same. If you didn’t take that away from this past year—believe in God or not it doesn’t matter—if you don’t take this unification message from something, somewhere, you wasted the year,” Koutsoudakis Jr. said, referring to the way in which the virus can infect anyone, anywhere.
With his father’s death and a full year of restaurant closures behind him, Andy Koutsoudakis Jr. is looking to the future. Tribeca’s Kitchen has reopened on 200 Church Street. Now as owner, Koutsoudakis Jr. hopes to be one of the many bricks from which the new restaurant industry is built from, living up to his father’s legacy and operating a safe, welcoming environment for customers to dine within. This renovated establishment will offer both indoor and outdoor dining in its quest to repair the city, but in order to do this Koutsoudakis Jr. sought out those who shared this same vision.
Executive Chef Jack Logue is a Lower Manhattan native who joined the Tribeca’s Kitchen team in hopes of revitalizing the severely impaired food business. Logue sees dining as a way for people to escape everyday life, but presently he says that escapism has been tarnished since restaurants themselves have become a reminder of the pandemic. After growing up in the neighborhoods that now stand shuttered in the wake of financial ruin, the cook yearns to be a beacon of hope for Tribeca’s Kitchen—which has already suffered—along with the greater community.
“This city is my home; it has always been my home. Feeling the pain of the city, not just the restaurants, but every aspect of it. For me, I want to be part of a project that will help take that pain away. I want to be part of the healing process for Manhattan,” Logue said.