The day after being named a semifinalist for a James Beard Rising Star Chef award for her work at Take Root, Elise Kornack has announced that the restaurant will be closing in March. Kornack and wife Anna Hieronimus, the only two staff members at the 12-seat Brooklyn tasting menu destination, told Grub Street that the decision to close is about wanting to go out on high note and to work on their personal relationship, after having spent the past four years as each other’s only co-worker. “The timing just felt appropriate,” Kornack told Eater NY.
Take Root opened in a Brooklyn yoga studio 2013, and found success relatively quickly. In 2014, Kornack was an Eater Young Guns semifinalist, the restaurant earned its Michelin star, and landed on Esquire’s best new restaurant list. In 2015, the couple revamped the space. Kornack was ahead of the “vegetable-forward” curve, and part of a wave of more affordable tasting menus in the city like Contra (2013) and Semilla (2014).
And while there can no denying the intensity of being married and operating a restaurant as a two-person team, Kornack and Hieronimus describe a deeply troubling, if not entirely unsurprising, toxicity in dining culture (yes, even in liberal Brooklyn): a “corrosive drip of homophobia,” as Eater editor Meghan McCarron puts it.
From the Grub Street report:
They say they’ve had countless uncomfortable encounters with customers who apparently don’t understand the nature of their restaurant or their relationship ... “We are gay women and we understand what treatment feels like when we feel marginalized,” Kornack says. “I can confidently say that there have been a handful of experiences that very much made us feel that way. It doesn’t go without saying that I am a masculine-presenting woman — I look ‘gay’ according to how people would stereotype a gay woman.” Customers have asked Hieronimus if her husband is the chef, and refused to touch the food after meeting them ... “You look to highlight things that you think are going to make your brand seem more desirable, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a lot of people that think being a gay woman is what’s going to make it more attractive,” Kornack says.
Kornack isn’t necessarily done with the restaurant business. Though the couple is moving upstate, Eater NY reports that “another restaurant-related project is a possibility.” “We are feeling excited about the next step,” the chef said.