“We consider everyone who walks through our door part of the family. We’re the place where everybody knows your name and probably more than that.”
These are some of the first words in the restaurant manifesto for Left Bank, an unpretentious yet upscale New York City restaurant. They don’t just say those words, they live by them.
Focusing on community first, this restaurant has evolved and grown beyond expectations. Co-owners Chef Laurence Edelman and Micheline Gaulin built their restaurant around the idea of neighborhood and community involvement, and have kept that focus even as they grow. “We truly are your neighborhood restaurant, even as we are attracting more and more customers from outside this neighborhood,” said Edelman.
Thinking about your community starts with thinking (and buying) locally, as much as possible. “While not every ingredient can come from your home area, you have to at least buy from people you know. We are champions of our local farmer and their markets,” said Edelman. “But thinking locally isn’t just about food. That’s your staff and your customers, and you have to know them and what’s important to them, because we all share the same community.”
Left Bank has taken this philosophy to heart, with a focus on involvement with local charities and groups such as Slow Food NYC, and events such as Caberet Gourmet and Summer in the City, as well as sharing passions with local patrons such as Keith Michael. “Keith is a great guy, I got to know him from the restaurant and just being part of the community,” explained Edelman. “Among his many talents, he’s a bird watcher and a photographer, so he supplied all of the photos seen in our restaurant of birds from different areas of New York City. At the end of the season, when we were updating to his summer series, we actually auctioned off his winter photos and donated a portion of the proceeds to Friends of Hudson River Park. It’s one more way we support our patrons, our community and the groups that support our community.”
The restaurant has really found their niche in the local community, which started with one unfortunate natural disaster that affected everyone in their area – Hurricane Sandy. “It was awful,” remembers Edelman, “So many people were without electricity, and so many businesses had to shut down. We were one of the few that stayed open.” For four days, Edelman began cooking on his own by candlelight and served a very limited menu, while Gaulin was working the bar. Their dedication to their community and the restaurant kept them going. “We had no electricity, but we had our gas stoves and we were able to ship ice in, so we just went for it. And the community responded. We are so grateful that people came, and people seemed grateful to have a place to go.”
At the one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the restaurant turned off their dining room lights and ran their restaurant by candlelight, serving food not made by electricity and cooked by hand. This time they had the luxury of using refrigeration and lights in the kitchen, but they relived the experience with the community that bounced back even stronger after such tragedy and the turnout was fantastic. A portion of the proceeds were donated to City Harvest, and the restaurant plans to make it an annual charity event.
“Get in over your head,” Edelman’s manifesto states, “and dedicate yourself to learning something great.”
This passion and focus on community has helped Edelman make his neighborhood restaurant a true destination location, without losing that local focus that makes them so great.