Tribeca Citizen described the recent licensing committee meeting for Manhattan Community Board One as “a scene out of Footloose.”
At the meeting locals listed off their concerns about the new unnamed Caribbean-fusion spot seeking home at 200 Chambers Street — formerly occupied by popular upscale steakhouse chain The Palm — arguing that it will be “devastating” and “catastrophic” for the family-friendly neighborhood.
Some might see that as unwelcoming, even xenophobic, but the owner of the up-and-coming restaurant Marc Celestin isn’t bothered.
“That pushback kind of tells us that we’re bringing something good,” he tells What Now New York. “We’re trying to do something different, and different sometimes scares people because they are stuck in their ways.”
However he reassures concerned citizens, “It’s a restaurant, not a nightclub.”
Celestin has operated a unique upscale Caribbean-fusion spot, Nuvo Kitchen, in Long Island for about three years now, serving specialities such as a grilled guava rum pork porterhouse and saffron spiced pasta. He says he set out for it to be a test run before “throwing himself to the wolves” in the big city, which he certainly hasn’t been a stranger to already. Celestin comes from a Caribbean background with his mother hailing from France and his father from Haiti. Despite pushback Celestin says his application was passed by the Community Board, and he hopes to open early next year.
“We have the funds, we have the know-how, we have the experience, we passed tests,” Celestin says. “The city is make or break.”
However these high-stakes are the exact playing field Celestin wants to be in. He hopes to earn a Michelin mention or, even better, a star, noting that there are very few Caribbean spots with a Michelin rating. At press time there are only five Caribbean restaurants on the Michelin guide including Kokomo and Zanmi, both of which are based in Brooklyn.
“Why can’t our food be known throughout the world,” he says rhetorically. “It’s mostly mom-and-pop shops, and that’s where the Michelin issue is concerned.”
However he believes that if it is going to happen anywhere, it is here.
“We are a melting pot, and that’s why I love New York,” he says. “We’re living in harmony and tasting each other’s food.”