Gabrielle Hamilton details experience of shutting down NYC’s Prune

In The New York Times, chef Gabrielle Hamilton describes the heartbreaking experience of closing down Prune, the beloved bistro she opened in Manhattan’s East Village in 1999. It’s a detailed, harrowing saga, and every minute-to-minute detail—fixing a burned-out light bulb, calling the insurance broker—carries elegiac weight. To read it is to encounter a person trying desperately to hold it together, the minutiae of her funereal tasks not quite enough to hold larger questions at bay. Such as: What comes next for restaurants, which were already on the edge before Covid-19? “The coronavirus did not suddenly shine light on an unknown fragility,” she writes. “We’ve all known, and for a rather long time.” For more on the industry’s struggles, see our West Coast editor Karen Stabiner’s feature on the plight of American restaurants—or her ongoing series detailing chef Gavin Kayen’s closure of his Minneapolis restaurants. (We should note that not everyone loved Hamilton’s essay, largely because of her prior role in the Ken Friedman/Spotted Pig controversy.)