There are plenty of great vegan restaurants worldwide, and many that have been operating for a long time, so you might be asking why you should care that another restaurant has joined the right side of history. Well, in case you are not aware, Eleven Madison Park is the New York restaurant headed up by renowned chef Daniel Humm, and it has 3 Michelin stars to its name. It has been closed due to the pandemic, and when it reopens its doors in June it will have a fully vegan menu. For such an acclaimed restaurant to decide to move away from animal products is a pretty significant deal.
Up to now, Eleven Madison Park has had meat at the center of its offering and has been famous for it. The select customer base it caters to presumably enjoyed the meat on offer and it was clearly a recipe for success. Leaving meat behind and hoping that diners are still as keen on a vegan menu is a considerable risk and shows that Daniel Humm is serious about his intention.
The reasoning behind the change is based around sustainability. It is well known that the meat industry is a major contributor to climate change and that we need to drastically reduce meat consumption worldwide if we are to stand any chance of slowing down global heating.
In a statement on the Eleven Madison Park website, Humm said: “We have always operated with sensitivity to the impact we have on our surroundings, but it was becoming ever clearer that the current food system is simply not sustainable, in so many ways. It was clear that after everything we all experienced this past year, we couldn’t open the same restaurant. We’ve made the decision to serve a plant-based menu in which we do not use any animal products – every dish is made from vegetables, both from the earth and the sea, as well as fruits, legumes, fungi, grains, and so much more.”
Humm is not the first chef to have made such a move. Way back in 2001, Alain Passard took meat off the menu of his Michelin-starred L’Arpège restaurant in Paris. Passard’s popularity didn’t diminish. More recently, French chef Alexis Gauthier transformed his Gauthier Soho restaurant in London to a fully vegan menu.
Of course, there has been a little backlash to Humm’s decision. One criticism is aimed at the fact that the new vegan tasting menu will be priced the same as the meat tasting menu, which is around $300. Humm defends the parity in pricing by pointing out that the preparation time is equal for the vegan and the meat dishes, and this where the costs are accrued.
Other critics point out that the restaurant is already very exclusive and the difference it will make by converting to a vegan menu is negligible. This criticism doesn’t take into account the influence that one of the world’s most celebrated restaurants has. If Eleven Madison Park can continue its success story and remain its status, then it will show that meat is not an essential ingredient to be a world-class restaurant. Other chefs and restaurants may then follow suit. A move like this doesn’t just make veganism acceptable, it makes it aspirational, and that can only be a good thing.
Featured image via Eleven Madison Park.