Top NYC chef explains switching Eleven Madison Park to all-vegan menu

Top NYC chef explains switching Eleven Madison Park to all-vegan menu

Eleven Madison Park, one of the city’s priciest restaurants, is betting the farm — and seeds, roots and fungi — on an all-vegan menu when it reopens on June 10. Goodbye, our favorite lavender and honey-roasted duck and mushroom butter-poached lobster! 

It’s an epicurean upheaval by chef/owner Daniel Humm, who’s presided over the three-Michelin-starred eatery’s kitchen since 2006. EMP customers were used to meaty masterpieces from land and sea as part of a $335 prix fixe tasting menu. 

The new menu will also cost $335 (including tip) for 12 courses, compared with eight to 10 pre-pandemic. It will be 100 percent “plant-based” with “vegetables, both from the earth and the sea, as well as fruits, legumes, fungi, grains, and so much more,” Humm wrote to customers on Monday. 

“Plant-based” means no milk, cream or cheese, either — dairy products which chefs often use on merely vegetarian menus to make dishes taste and feel more like — take a guess — meat and fish. (The only exception at EMP will be milk and honey available with coffee and tea). 

Is EMP’s new animal-averse approach woke? Or is it a joke, given that a mere 0.5 percent of the US adult population identifies as vegan? 

Eleven Madison Park
Eleven Madison Park’s new all-vegan menu will cost $335 (including tip) for 12 courses.
Gary He

EMP has changed colors over the years like a culinary chameleon. It redesigned its dining room twice. It went from à la carte to prix fixe. It launched a baffling “grid” menu a few years ago. 

Swiss chef/co-owner Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park in New York
Swiss chef/co-owner Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park says the menu will be 100 percent “plant-based.”
MARCO GROB/AFP/Getty Images

For a brief time, waiters delivered history spiels and performed card tricks for diners who just wanted to eat. 

But vegan-ization is the biggest departure by far — and a sure way to set off a buzz as Eleven Madison Park reopens for in-house dining for the first time since March 2020. 

Humm wrote in his letter that during the pandemic, “We realized that not only has the world changed, but that we have changed as well . . . it was becoming ever clearer that the current food system is simply not sustainable in so many ways.” 

He told The Post on Monday: “I would tell you it would be a lot easier to reopen the restaurant we had before. This is a scary thing for us. 

“But it’s crystal clear that the food system — the way we produce food, eat food — so many aspects are broken. 

“It’s time to show a plant-based way forward that’s creative, delicious and luxurious. 

“If we can shine a light on a dish of seaweed as truly luxurious, it can change for many other places.” 

Eleven Madison Park
Eleven Madison Park has made a lot of changes over the years, but the all-vegan menu is the biggest departure by far.
Gary He

Humm dismissed a snarky suggestion that a vegan menu cost the restaurant less to turn out: “It’s a huge expense. We have a farm upstate in Bennington, NY, to grow our special vegetables. We work with a lab. It’s also extremely labor-intensive.” 

Humm’s fellow three-Michelin star toque, seafood-centric Le Bernardin’s Eric Ripert, agreed, “A pound of morel mushrooms costs $40. White asparagus, truffles and exotic vegetables can be similar in price to food at places that don’t serve only vegetables.” 

Ripert wished Humm well, saying, “I believe the EMP concept will be successful. The younger audience is very curious about what you can do with vegetables.” 

Eleven Madison Park
Eleven Madison Park customers are used to meaty masterpieces.
Gary He

(Both Eleven Madison Park and Le Bernardin are awaiting Michelin’s delayed 2021 ratings on Thursday, which will reflect the guide’s pre-pandemic evaluations.) 

But if Humm’s new format doesn’t work for enough customers, “He can always add a meat or a fish,” Ripert chuckled. “So it will be mostly vegan but not entirely.”

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