One of our long time client’s and restauranteur Chef Jemiko owner of Senza Gluten restaurant and his famous GF bakery experienced something like we have never seen before.
He made the announcement on social media that he would be closing his doors, like many owners he hung on for as long as he could, just after he made the announcement to close, the announcement for the city was announced the opening of indoor dining.
From the time Chef made the first announcement on September 23, 2020, to the very next day September 24th, his second announcement that they will remain open they received letters, email, social media DM’s from all over the US and the World, asking what they as huge fans and loyal patrons could do to help Chef to keep his restaurant open.
Chef and his family were shocked to see the outpouring from patrons, when I heard about his uplifting story, I just had to share this with our readers.
Humanity and Grace are not dead!
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Chef Jemiko, for a little one on one. (oh yes, I did have some of my favorite dishes during this interview)
DTM: How has Covid affected your business?
Chef: “Like so many New York City restaurants, we’ve been very affected by the pandemic. We’ve seen diminished capacity numbers, so many more New Yorkers staying home, less out-of-town visitors, sourcing difficulties and delays, and more. To adapt, we installed relaxing and cozy outdoor seating areas at both Senza Gluten Restaurant and Senza Gluten Cafe & Bakery and launched our first-ever online store, which ships nationwide, in order to reach more of our loyal customers across the country. We’re so grateful for the support of our community, who continue to visit us and order online so that we can keep our doors open.”
DTM: Do you feel the city handled the closing and struggles throughout the restaurant industry?
Chef: “This year has been very challenging for restaurants, but we know that the city has been working hard to help small businesses recover. Even more meaningful than the government’s efforts has been the support of our fans. When we announced we may have to close Senza Gluten Restaurant, customers flooded our social media, emails, and phone lines with words of love, their favorite memories from Senza, and offerings to help. We believe that our community deserves all the credit for Senza Gluten being able to stay open and busy during this difficult time.”
DTM: You are one of the most famous GF restaurants and bakeries in NY, how does that feel?
Chef: “It feels very rewarding to bring joy to people through food— that’s what I’ve always loved the most about cooking. I love being able to reimagine comforting Italian classics so that anyone can enjoy them worry-free, no matter their dietary restrictions or allergies. I have several friends with Celiac disease, and I have seen first-hand the difficulties that they experience while dining out at restaurants. Before I opened Senza Gluten, I would cook gluten-free versions of my friends’ favorite dishes, and seeing the spark of joy on their faces was incredibly gratifying. This is what inspired me to open a gluten-free restaurant, in particular; allergy-safe cooking lends itself to a special, welcoming warmth for people who normally don’t get to enjoy a high-quality, zero-stress restaurant meal.”
DTM: You made the announcement to close your doors, how hard was that decision, and what happened after you made this announcement?
Chef: “The decision was incredibly hard. We’ve put so much work into Senza Gluten Restaurant, and know that it is a haven for so many gluten-free diners, neighborhood regulars, and beyond. When we announced we would likely have to close our doors, our community sprang into action. We received thousands of messages, words of support and encouragement, an overwhelming number of reservations were immediately scheduled for our outdoor dining area, and we even saw sales rise for our gluten-free treats online (and in the bakery!) as folks hoped to support us from near and far. Because of this response, we’ll be able to keep the restaurant open, and we’re so grateful for our wonderful community.”
DTM: What do you attribute the overwhelming world’s response to the news of your closing?
Chef: “I think it is the work of our entire team— from our front of house staff and servers to our cooks and dishwashers. Without the Senza Gluten team’s enthusiasm, we would not be able to create a warm and welcoming experience that defines every service. Our staff truly love coming to work every day; they are incredibly knowledgeable and trained about gluten-free cooking, dining, and accommodating allergies, and they tend to stay with us for years. We’re like a family! We know that our guests really appreciate our accommodating hospitality, attention to detail, and friendliness, and that’s part of the reason that Senza Gluten is so special.”
DTM: Do you believe that you as a chef have made a huge difference for people with celiac and GF issues?
Chef: “I’ve had guests tell me that it’s been years since they were able to dine at a restaurant! We accommodate allergies that are very serious, so we abide by incredibly strict regulations and careful processes to ensure that everyone’s experience is safe, which is a capability that very few restaurants have. It makes me very happy to be able to provide a relaxing and safe environment for these guests. Some of our most popular menu items are also the hardest to find gluten-free elsewhere— such as Calamari and Tiramisu at the Restaurant, Bomboloni at the Bakery, and more. We hear from customers that they’ve been looking for these dishes forever, and are so happy to have finally found them at Senza Gluten!”
DTM: Can you understand the impact you have had on thousands of people’s lives?
Chef: “It is very special to realize that in the six years we’ve been in business, we’ve been able to help people create memories with their loved ones, over delicious food!”
DTM: What are your future plans, and will Senza Gluten continue here in NY?
Chef: “We’re so excited for what’s to come. For now, we’re getting used to operating our new online shop— baking and shipping fresh batches of cookies, scones, muffins, bread, and more across the country. We’re very excited to continue growing, and to introduce some new initiatives soon.”
Please consider supporting your local restaurants, bars, and bakeries, they were there when we needed them!