NEW YORK: Fifteen months after closing their dining room, Daniel Humm, chef of Eleven Madison Park, the highly acclaimed New York restaurant will turn plant-based or vegan. The chef said that when the restaurant reopens on 10 June, every dish will be made from vegetables, both from the earth and the sea, as well as fruits, legumes, fungi, grains and more.
“In the midst of last year, when we began to imagine what Eleven Madison Park would look like after the pandemic we realised not only that the world had changed but also that we had changed. We have always operated with sensitivity to the impact we have on our surroundings but it was becoming even clearer that the current food system is simply not sustainable in many ways.” Daniel wrote in a newsletter.
He said he and his team have been working tirelessly to immerse themselves in this cuisine. “It’s been an incredible journey and a time of much learning. “I find myself most moved and inspired by dishes that center impeccably-prepared vegetables, and have naturally gravitated towards a more plant-based diet. This decision was inspired by the challenge to get to know our ingredients more deeply, and to push ourselves creatively. It wasn’t clear from the onset where we would end up. We promised ourselves that we would only change direction if the experience would be as memorable as before,” he said,
Daniel said that they wanted to keep the most delicious aspects of their dishes and wanted to retain the same level of texture and flavour without meat. “ It’s a tremendous challenge to create something as satisfying as the lavender honey glazed duck, or the butter poached lobster, recipes that we perfected.”
The Swiss chef said he was not going to lie saying that he has woken up in the middle of the night thinking about the dishes that had defined the restaurant and the risk they were taking in abandoning them.
“But then I return to the kitchen and see what we’ve created. We are obsessed with making the most flavorful vegetable broths and stocks. Our days are consumed by developing fully plant-based milks, butters and creams. We are exploring fermentation, and understand that time is one of the most precious ingredients. What at first felt limiting began to feel freeing, and we are only scratching the surface,” he said.
During the pandemic, Daniel together with a small team from his restaurant collaborated with the nonprofit Rethink Food to serve close to 1 million meals for New York’s experiencing food insecurity. “Through this work, I experienced the magic of food in a whole new way.”
“What began as an effort to keep our team employed while feeding people in need has become some of the most fulfilling work of my career. It is a chapter in my life that’s been deeply moving, and for which I am very grateful.”
In his newsletter, the chef said that he was also evolving his business model to ensure that when the restaurant is reopened, every dinner at the restaurant will allow them to provide five meals to food-insecure New Yorkers. “This food is being delivered by Eleven Madison Truck, which is operated by our staff in partnership with Rethink Food. We’ve created a circular ecosystem where our guests, our team, and our suppliers all participate,” he said.
He believes that all this gives the team the confidence to reinvent what fine dining can be. “It makes us believe that this is a risk worth taking. “It is time to redefine luxury as an experience that serves a higher purpose and maintains a genuine connection to the community. A restaurant experience is about more than what’s on the plate. We are thrilled to share the incredible possibilities of plant-based cuisine while deepening our connection to our homes: both our city and our planet,” he said.