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Eleven Madison Park Goes Meatless

The highly acclaimed Manhattan restaurant Eleven Madison Park said on Monday that it would no longer serve meat or seafood when it reopens next month, becoming one of the most high-profile restaurants to switch to a plant-based menu because of environmental concerns.

Daniel Humm, the chef and an owner, said in a statement on the restaurant’s website, “It was clear that after everything we all experienced this past year, we couldn’t open the same restaurant.”

Mr. Humm said that the coronavirus pandemic, which led to closure and layoffs, had forced the restaurant’s leaders to reimagine its future. “We have always operated with sensitivity to the impact we have on our surroundings,” he said, “but it was becoming ever clearer that the current food system is simply not sustainable, in so many ways.”

Mr. Humm said that the kitchen had spent its days developing new dishes and meat and dairy alternatives, like plant-based milks, butter and creams, flavorful vegetable broths and stocks, and fermented foodstuffs.

“What at first felt limiting began to feel freeing, and we are only scratching the surface,” he said. “All this has given us the confidence to reinvent what fine dining can be.”

The restaurant’s decision to reinvent its menu, reported Monday by The Wall Street Journal, is potentially a risk for the Michelin-starred restaurant, which was known for dishes like lavender honey-glazed duck, lobster and Hawaiian prawn roulade.

But the move comes as prominent restaurants have shifted toward plant-based recipes, sometimes to critical applause. The Michelin Guide has awarded stars to vegetarian restaurants, but only three vegan restaurants have star awards and none have more than one. There is one vegetarian restaurant with three Michelin stars, King’s Joy in Beijing, according to a spokeswoman for Michelin North America.

In January, the Michelin Guide gave its first star to a fully vegan establishment in France, ONA, a restaurant near Bordeaux.

Eleven Madison Park was awarded four stars from The New York Times, three Michelin stars, and the No. 1 spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2017. The restaurant will continue to offer milk for coffee and tea, meaning it will not be entirely vegan, Mr. Humm said.

“We’re not here to take anything away, we just want to enrich people with showing a different way what a fine dinning meal can be,” he said in a text. “We don’t want to lecture people.”

Mr. Humm, in an interview with NPR’s “How I Built This,” gave an example of a dish the restaurant will serve: oven-roasted golden oyster mushrooms glazed with kombu stock and dusted with dehydrated pine needle mushroom powder. He said he wanted to create a restaurant where meat eaters would be “blown away” by eating vegetables.

Cooking publications and websites have made similar bets about what diners would like in recent years. Last month, Epicurious, the popular cooking website, said it would not publish new beef recipes and had been phasing them out for over a year over concerns about climate change. Epicurious cited data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations that said 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock.

Brett Anderson contributed reporting.


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