It all began when Robert De Niro persuaded Nobu Matsuhisa to come to New York and open the first Nobu in Tribeca, NYC. Since then, the brand has expanded to 32 restaurants in five continents.
If Nobu has come to mean sushi the world over, Nobu 57 has also come to mean the ultimate New York power scene. From the moment they open till the final customers leave, there is never any down time, except for the short window when the staff meal is served. We were fortunate enough to come by on the 5th of May for their Cinco de Mayo family meal and meet with Executive Chef Matt Hoyle who has been cooking with the Nobu family for 11 years.
Every day we serve nearly 200 staff meals. There are three times when we do so: breakfast at 10:30 a.m., the main meal at 3:30 p.m. and a late meal at 9 p.m. The staff meal is open to anyone in the company who wishes to eat.
Breakfast is American style. The main meal is always 2 proteins—one non-pork—a starch, a salad, and a vegetarian option. The late meal is based on what is left from the main meal and is mainly eaten by kitchen staff and anyone who wants to pack some food to go and have when they get home.
Today’s Staff Meal is essentially Central America meets Japan. It’s Cinco de Mayo today, strangely this is only really celebrated in the US and more recently England. We specially ordered fresh tortillas in from Queens.
The sushi bar is on a slightly different schedule and they have their break a little earlier so they eat separately and their staff meal is geared more toward the Japanese tastes of noodles and rice. Then for the main meal we encourage everyone else to sit together. Generally, it’s in the back room, but today we had some late lunch diners so we moved it into the front. I’m a big believer in mixing the front and back of house and it’s nice to have that one time when everyone comes together for a big communal event.
All the restaurants I’ve worked in have done good staff meals and that’s important because people really do get excited about them. Also it gives some of the less experienced chefs a chance to cook for me and try out some of their new ideas. It can be bit of creativity for these guys, and a lot of people want to show us a dish from home that they are proud of.
In Nobu Tokyo, they go Space Age—sleeping bags and tents. People sleep between breaks.If you’re working a double it can also be 30 minutes to rest the brain. In Tokyo so many people live outside the center and won’t get so much time to sleep with the long commute, so they catch what sleep they can in the day. Some of our staff do this too.
At Nobu Moscow they supply blankets for the staff to take to smoke outside when it’s freezing.
We do birthday cakes once a month for everyone who has had a birthday that month and a birthday shout out!
At Christmas, we do a huge production for our staff meal and of course with me being British I really get involved in doing a traditional British Christmas meal, roast beef Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes. And this being NY there are a lot of people without family here, so it’s the only holiday meal they might get, so thats pretty cool. Proper excessive amounts, but still no alcoholic drinks served!
Nobu loves to join for staff meals, he loves Japanese curry and noodles. He sits with the staff, which he always has done since the days I used to work with him at the original Matsuhisa.