Dick Friedberg, owner of Allen & Delancey, now tells us he parted ways with Ryan Skeen yesterday because the chef went over budget and didn’t spend enough time in the kitchen. Friedberg says he wanted to give Skeen free reign over the restaurant (he says he only spoke to the chef, a “very nice young man,” three times during the three months he was at Allen & Delancey) but that in the end, there were problems with the bottom line. “You have to watch your numbers,” Friedberg told us. “And they weren’t to my liking. Our budget was agreed upon and it was not adhered to.” Another one of Friedberg’s gripes: “He does not spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking. And the food costs kept escalating. They started at the right level but over time they escalated above the norm.” Friedberg doesn’t believe the problem lay in ingredients. “When a chef brings in a sous-chef and other cooks unbeknownst to me and doesn’t come to the restaurant over a period of time, it’s time for him to be removed.” So where does Allen & Delancey go from here?
Friedberg tells us he’s interviewing three chefs (he won’t reveal their level of notoriety) and will decide on a replacement after Thanksgiving. The restaurant will then introduce an expanded menu with cheaper options (something Friedberg says he wanted from the beginning). The new menu will suggest entrée and side pairings, and there will also be a “boutique-style bar menu” and new hours (5:30 p.m. till midnight, with the bar menu on offer till 2 a.m.). In the meantime, Friedberg doesn’t think the kitchen will have trouble executing Skeen’s menu even with his team gone, and he’s counting on what he says is a strong customer base to stay loyal to the operation. That remains to be seen, but we agree with one thing Friedberg told us: “It’s always exciting at Allen & Delancey.”