By: Serach Nissim
While many businesses including eateries, have shuttered their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some are faring better.
As reported by the NY Post, the owner of HaSalon has opened multiple new restaurants during this time. Celebrity Chef Eyal Shani has grown his restaurant empire by the dozen since the lockdowns began. Recently, in an interview with Side Dish, Shani and his partner, Shahar Segal, announced opening a new venue in Hudson Yards. The restaurant—opened on Wednesday with the name Naked Tomato —is their sixth in Manhattan. The Israeli foodie entrepreneurs will also be opening a seventh new concept eatery downtown, at 61 W. Eighth Street. In late November, Shani had also opened another HaSalon in Miami (his fourth) with partners Major Food Group of Carbone fame. He is also expanding a chain of restaurants under the Miznon moniker, which means “cafeteria” in Hebrew, which now boasts four locations in New York. In all, Shani and Segal have a total of 37 venues worldwide, up from 25 in March 2020, when the Coronavirus madness began.
Despite the success, Shani said he too had his share of difficulties during the pandemic, fearing he would “lose everything. “I stayed home for three months and found my family again,” Shani said. “I had time to be with my wife and daughter and my giant tortoise. I made breakfast, lunch and dinner. I bought the food, put it in the kitchen, cleaned, cooked and served, even arranging the plates. It was completely my own territory and it was one of the happiest periods in my life.” While in Israel the lockdowns lasted for three months, they lasted a lot longer in the U.S. and then lingered due to staff shortages, he said. “All of my chefs and waitresses got money from the state and made beautiful parties,” he said. “They didn’t want to return because they had money from the government. But when the government stopped paying, they all came back.”
Last year, Chef Shani was featured in an article by the Post which spotlighted the price of an appetizer– just a homegrown tomato for $24. He later told Side Dish that even though the Post article was meant to be derogatory, it ended up attracting scores of customers into his Hell’s Kitchen restaurant. “You can’t believe what happened after the article was in the newspaper. It was so crowded. People wanted to know who was that crazy man who sold a tomato for $24,” Shani told Side Dish.