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Eleven Madison Park, one of New York City’s most renowned restaurants, has undergone a significant transformation in the past 19 months. Chef and owner Daniel Humm has ditched meat and fish for an all-vegan menu, and the results have been spectacular.

Source: The Tonight Show/Youtube

When Humm first announced the change, there was a lot of customer angst and criticism from the press. New York Times critic Pete Wells famously said a beet dish “tastes like Lemon Pledge and smells like a burning joint.” Humm admits that creating an entirely plant-based menu proved to be a more significant challenge than he had anticipated.

“In the beginning, we were like, ‘What’s the main course?’” Humm said. “We didn’t know. There was no playbook that said how it’s done.”

But Humm persevered, and the accolades and acolytes returned. In October, Eleven Madison Park was awarded three Michelin stars – a vegan first. The prestigious restaurant guide praised Humm’s “zealous dedication to masterful precision” and called his all-plant menu “a bold vision of luxury dining.”

Instead of using seasonal vegetables to accompany animal proteins, the season itself became the story, according to Humm. “I thought we would be limited, but we were limited before because we were cooking seasonal condiments for meat and fish. Today we are cooking the season completely. The whole dish is of the season.”

The pandemic was a key driver in forcing Humm to make the change. He shut the restaurant and transformed it into a commissary with Rethink Food, where Humm serves as a founding board member. The community kitchen served 1 million meals during the 16 months EMP was closed.

When it was time to reopen the restaurant, Humm said, “it was clear that I needed to use the language of food because the pandemic not only exposed food insecurity, it exposed a lot of broken systems, and I felt that I had a responsibility and unique platform, to be truly honest of what I have seen as a chef.”

The mood in the dining room is now “almost euphoric, and for sure, it is because it is plant-based,” Humm said, adding that the diners are younger and more diverse.

“Before, by the time people hit the main course, the energy was crashing. People were full, sleepy, and wanted to go home,” the Swiss-born chef said. “Now it’s completely the opposite. As the night goes on, the energy in the dining room completely rises.”

Humm’s passion for plant-based cuisine has made him a poster child for those that kicked off the new year by celebrating “Veganuary,” – a global campaign where people pledge to follow a vegan lifestyle for 30 days.

“Restaurants are embracing Veganuary like never before, from corner bodegas to Michelin-starred restaurants like Eleven Madison Park,” said Wendy Matthews, US director of the nonprofit’s campaign.

In conclusion, Chef Daniel Humm’s all-vegan menu at Eleven Madison Park blossomed after a rough patch. The menu, which once faced criticism and skepticism, has now been praised for its bold vision of luxury dining and has even earned the prestigious three Michelin stars. Humm’s dedication to masterful precision and the use of seasonal vegetables has transformed the dining experience and attracted a more diverse and younger crowd. The pandemic played a significant role in pushing Humm to make this change, and it’s clear that he feels a responsibility to use the language of food to address broken systems and food insecurity.

As more and more restaurants embrace the vegan lifestyle, it’s essential to consider the impact our food choices have on our health and the planet. By making conscious choices and supporting businesses that align with our values, we can all create a more sustainable future. So why not give Chef Daniel Humm’s all-vegan menu at Eleven Madison Park a try and see how delicious plant-based cuisine can be? And if you’re feeling inspired, consider taking the Veganuary pledge and see how incorporating more plant-based meals into your diet can make a difference.

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