One chef finds silver lining in COVID lockdown


The pandemic has devastated the restaurant trade and the brand new Omicron wave continues to darken the image, however there have been some vivid spots for a fortunate few.

For Chef Franklin Becker, business is sweet – and the expansion has been life-changing after the 52-year-old met his new spouse, Melissa, 51, on a relationship app a month earlier than lockdown. She now works with him on new business improvement.

“I have mixed feelings about the pandemic. I wish it never happened. Many people lost their lives. But it also shed light on what is important in life — family, community and friends,” Becker stated. 

Business additionally accelerated for Becker. During the pandemic, Little Beet — a series of wholesome fast-food eateries that Becker based in 2013 — closed however wolfed up Le Pain Quotidien and Maison Kaiser and is now reopening after a restructuring. Becker’s on-line wholesome grocery retailer,, additionally grew at an “accelerated” tempo. It’s now valued at $750 million and set to go public, Becker tells Side Dish.

Now, Becker has additionally cooked up two new eating places which can be slated to open this spring — an Upper East Side seafood spot, Uptown Trout, and an “old school” American chophouse-style eatery, The Press Club Grill, by Herald Square, Side Dish can reveal completely. 

“Unfortunately the pandemic devastated our industry,” Becker stated. “It created a tremendous number of supply-chain issues, which led to higher costs for goods, which will lead to higher costs for the customers – along with labor shortages, and endless other issues.”

Chef Franklin Becker met his spouse, Melissa, simply earlier than the pandemic hit, and so they now work collectively.

He was capable of safe a “core” group and maintain them on board via the peak of the pandemic due to an revolutionary new profit-sharing plan and different incentives. Also, he stated, “I was able to grab opportunity when it presented itself and go after locations and different things that other people didn’t have the means to do.”

Becker’s F. Becker Hospitality has partnered with Seasoned Hospitality’s Stephen Loffredo and Tora Matsuoka to open Uptown Trout and the Press Club Grill. 

Until 2012, Becker helmed Catch, Lexington Brass and the now shuttered Abe and Arthur’s, as government company chef for the EMM Group, now often called the Catch Hospitality Group. 

Now his personal seafood restaurant, Uptown Trout, will deal with native seafood. The 2,500-square-foot restaurant will seat 72 folks and open contained in the revamped Franklin Hotel, at 164 East 87th St., in late April or May.

The resort by no means had a restaurant, so all the buildout is from scratch. 

“The pandemic slowed down construction. We’re putting in an entire kitchen and restaurant,” Becker stated. 

Meanwhile, the Press Club Grill is slated to open by June. The 9,000-square-foot area takes up two flooring and can seat 180 friends contained in the Martinique New York resort at Broadway and thirty second Street. 

Uptown Trout is transferring into the The Franklin resort.
Matthew McDermott

The idea, Becker stated, is “old-school” New York, continental American, with some theatrical tableside ready dishes — like steak Diane, steak tartare and ceasar salad, in addition to some seafood. 

Becker says he’s taking his inspiration from town itself. 

“It’s old New York meets new New York,” Becker stated. “Herald Square was the center for the newspaper world — it was a place where sports and entertainment met. The restaurant will draw back to old sensibilities, when dining was a little more sophisticated, when you could bump elbows in the same dining room with a heavyweight fighter and musicians from nearby Madison Square Garden,” he stated.

The menu will draw on his trade expertise over time. And it’ll even be an homage to his mom, who died lower than two weeks in the past. 

“She made the best matzoh ball soup, with homemade kneidlachs [a type of dumpling], and that will also be on the menu,” Becker stated. 

Last year, Becker additionally opened a 5,000-square-foot market meals corridor by Columbia University’s West Harlem campus, designed by architect Glen Coben. The complicated features a full-service Spanish tapas restaurant, Oliva, just named the best New Year’s Day brunch spot by Eater.

During lockdown, Becker additionally launched 100 Pleats, a foodie app he hoped could be like an Uber for cooks. 


The West Village’s Dante is opening at Pearl Alley.

A restaurant that shut down through the pandemic, Upper East Side staple, T-Bar, has discovered a brand new residence close by on East sixtieth St., between Park and Lexington Avenues. It expects to open early spring, says Tony Fortuna, T-Bar’s proprietor with associate Derek Axelrod. 

In different opening information, Masalawala, at 365 Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn’s Park Slope — from restaurateur Roni Mazumdar and Chef Chintan Pandya – will open subsequent month.

The 2,500-square-foot spot can have an extra 700-square-foot yard. There can be 55 seats inside. The eatery will function meals from their hometown of Kolkata, India, together with an upfront retail market promoting spice blends and different specialty Indian merchandise. 

Dante’s seasonal pop-up is showing on the South Street Seaport.

There’s additionally Momoya SoHo, at 47 Prince Street, from proprietor KwangHo Lee and head sushi chef/associate Watura Makai, which may also open in February. The 3,000-square-foot bi-level area on the nook of Prince and Mulberry will function a first-level with a wine and sake bar with cocktails by Alex Ott, and a 12-seat sushi bar that seats 30. Upstairs will seat an extra 30 folks. There may also be round 55 outside seats. 

In addition, Dante, the beloved West Village restaurant and bar — named the perfect bar in North America in 2019 and 2020 —  is opening its seasonal pop-up,  Dante Winter House, at Pearl Alley on Pier 17 on the South Street Seaport. That’s in addition to its Aspen cocktail pop-up at The Snow Lodge. 

Now Dante Winter House can have a espresso bar, in addition to the Dante Bar, with its signature cocktails, together with boozy espresso and scorching smoked toddy all served in cellular cups, together with the Negroni Bar. 

There may also be two meals vans — one serving flatbreads, just like the Verde, with spicy lamb sausage, mozzarella and arugula, and the Bianco, with pancetta, leeks, provolone and thyme, whereas one other is centered round affogatos. 

The Dante Winter House pop-up, which launched Monday, is 10,500 sq. toes and comes with 230 seats, plus 10 on the bar.


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