Thomas Keller to Curate Restaurants for NYC Hudson Yards

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Chef Thomas Keller
Chef Thomas Keller of the French Laundry. Source: Thomas Keller Restaurant Group via Bloomberg

Thomas Keller, the chef-owner of Per Se in New York’s Time Warner Center, will open a restaurant at Related Co.’s Hudson Yards and help choose 11 more eateries for the development on Manhattan’s far west side.

Keller, 59, is collaborating with Kenneth Himmel, president of Related’s mixed-use development division and a restaurateur himself, on the chefs and concepts for the restaurants. One of those chefs will be Keller, who said he plans to unveil an idea about which he will say little right now, but that he’s been thinking about for 20 years.

“We’re trying to bring together a group of chefs and operators who are going to offer a diversified food and beverage opportunity for visitors, the residents and of course the workers, the professionals at Hudson Yards,” Keller said in a phone interview. “We went down the list of what we felt was important for cuisine: Italian, French, American, Japanese, Greek, Spanish, Mexican.”

The hiring of Keller, the only American-born chef to hold multiple three-star ratings in the Michelin Guide, is a prestigious step in the progression of the $20 billion, 17.4 million-square-foot (1.6 million-square-meter) Hudson Yards project, which Related has called the biggest private real estate development in U.S. history. The eateries will be part of a seven-story retail complex anchored by the city’s first Neiman Marcus, which is scheduled to open in three years.

Two Skyscrapers

Related’s project is being built largely over the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s train yards west of Pennsylvania Station, close to the Hudson River. The retail complex will be in the eastern half of the 28-acre (11-hectare) development, where the company is committed to building two skyscrapers along 10th Avenue, between 30th and 33rd streets. Coach Inc. and Time Warner Inc. are among companies slated to move to the development.

Keller worked with Himmel on the restaurants for Related’s Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle in Midtown, which include Masa and A Voce in addition to Per Se and Keller’s Bouchon Bakery & Cafe. Per Se and Masa each have three Michelin stars. Keller is also known for the French Laundry restaurant in Yountville, California.

The chef’s tasting menu at Per Se for May 3 started at $310 a person, service included, with additional charges for some options.

Middle Market

The restaurants at Hudson Yards will be a key element, along with Neiman Marcus, in defining the complex to consumers, said Himmel, president of Related Urban.

Related wants the operators to spend a lot on decor and atmosphere, Himmel said, so they will be paying “on the lower end” of the complex’s rent scale. The dining options at Hudson Yards will be “a lot more toward the middle of the market than the super-luxury-end” served by Per Se and other pricey Time Warner Center restaurants, he said.

“It’s more and more how people enjoy eating and going out today, as opposed to 12 years ago,” he said. “Twelve years ago, everybody was focused on these Michelin three-star very special and precious restaurants. Everybody is headed toward something more casual and democratic.”

As for his own concept, Keller said he’s drawing his ideas from his own youth. He said he’s envisioning food that Ward and June Cleaver, the fictitious parents on the 1950s television comedy “Leave It To Beaver,” would have ordered at restaurants.

“It’s about a time in America that I grew up in,” he said. “It’s kind of the food of that era. I don’t want to say too much. It’s three years away.”

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