After months of closed doors and quiet streets, Metro New York is quickly coming back to life as more individuals get vaccinated and restaurants are able to welcome guests at full capacity. Among those restaurants that chose to fully close during Covid was Chef Chris Siversen’s Maritime Parc restaurant. After being closed and reflecting on the challenges the food industry had to overcome during the last year, Siversen offers insightful thoughts on the future of the NY food scene with more people working from their own homes.
Like many other businesses at the start of the pandemic, Chris Siversen was unsure about what would happen to the future of his career. “I had to come to an appreciation for what I have done and where I currently was with my career. However, as an owner I knew the responsibility I had and the amount of people who were depending on me. My employees relied on me to fund their mortgages, car payments, and schooling for their children.” Siversen chose to remain closed instead of relying on take-out and delivery. With PPP funding, he thought it was best to open his doors again when they would be able to break even. Looking to the future, Siversen’s team knew they needed cashflow so once indoor dining reopened they were able to reopen Maritime Parc. “Luckily, we did not face challenges with our lease. Because the state owns the property, we ease directly from the marina. When Covid hit, they were able to work with us and come up with a solution. I don’t think anyone in the industry wanted to see a business fail, so having this trusting and supportive relationship was something we could rely on,” shared Siversen.
In order to successfully reopen and remind customers of Martime’s brand, they reintroduced all of their greatest hit dishes among the past 11 years they have been open. “Our goal was to let customers remember who we are and what we have to offer. Once more people walk through our doors and have a memorable experience, we want to get creative with the menu again.”
Not surprisingly, outdoor dining has been off the charts, and in fact, maybe people wanted to dine outside regardless of the weather just to have a great meal. “Even if it was cold or drizzling I saw people happy to be outside. It was a sense of normalcy for them just to be served a meal and waited on.” In welcoming the outdoor dining scene, Siversen got as many heat lamps as necessary and also installed real-wood fire pits, whose smell gives off a sense of warmth and comfort at his restaurants. “Without a doubt, outdoor dining is here to stay.”
The success of Siversen’s company prior to the pandemic, proved to be fortunate in the company taking off again once they reopened doors and started conducting business now that vaccine numbers are increasing. Siversen has reintroduced his catering business, which is already booked out to 2023. “It’s interesting to note the two drastic sides of our clients interested in catering now. Some want to keep it small and intimate, while others want grand buffets and extravagant celebrations. I think because those larger celebrations, such as weddings, bar mitzvahs, and anniversaries were put on pause during the pandemic, clients want the celebrations even bigger and more lavish than ever before.”
Siversen is set to open a restaurant in Livingston called The Feathered Fox and couldn’t ask for a better time to do so. When working for the Glazier Group years ago, the company owned Striphouse Steakhouse in the Westminister Hotel. “They left their lease in 2016 and the hotel wasn’t able to run it independently, so they reached out to my team to help create the brand.” The steakhouse-based menu will also include a sushi and raw bar menu, extensive wine list, and bar food bites. To create the wine offering list, Siversen worked with Fedway, AP Wine, and Michael Skurnik Wines.
“In terms of design I brought in Christian Arkay-Leliever to help create the royal English country atmosphere I was going for. We completed a seminar together on how a chef and designer should work together and we have worked side by side since. Once again, we were able to collaborate with Marc Celli and the JC Furniture team to execute Christian’s magnificent design.”
With people working from home during the pandemic and even now because they learned they can, Siversen believes suburban dining will definitely take on a different look. “New York chefs are dipping their toes outside of the city because it’s becoming unsustainable to build a restaurant and stay afloat. In the suburbs, the financial picture changes drastically. Many people who come to work in the city live in the suburbs anyway, so I think the food scene in the suburbs is sure to take off.”
While the RRF funds have run out, Siversen strongly believes that a bill will be passed for more funding so that the food industry will increasingly regain its strength and be able to cater to its guests’ needs and wants.