(NEW YORK) — After nearly 15 months since Daniel Humm closed the dining room at Eleven Madison Park due to the pandemic, the chef and owner of the Make It Nice restaurant group announced that it will officially reopen June 10 with an evolved business model and new plant-based menu.
“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,” Humm wrote in an announcement on the restaurant’s website.
After laying off most of the team when the restaurant temporarily closed in March 2020, Humm candidly explained he “truly didn’t know if there was going to be an Eleven Madison Park.”
But in collaboration with the nonprofit Rethink Food, the restaurant was able to keep a small team employed, and they prepared nearly a million meals for food insecure New Yorkers, which Humm hailed as “some of the must fulfilling work” of his career.
“I experienced the magic of food in a whole new way, and I also saw a different side of our city,” he said. “It was clear to me that this work must become a cornerstone of our restaurant. Therefore, we’ve evolved our business model. When we reopen Eleven Madison Park on June 10, every dinner you purchase will allow us to provide five meals to food-insecure New Yorkers.”
He also deployed the Eleven Madison Truck, which transports and serves up to 2,000 nutritious meals weekly. The meals are made with the same produce and ingredients used at the restaurant and sent to neighborhoods including food-insecure districts in the Bronx and Brooklyn, creating what Humm called “a circular ecosystem where our guests, our team and our suppliers all participate.”
Last year, as Humm imagined what the three Michelin-starred restaurant would look like in a post-pandemic world, he said he and his team thought about food in creative ways again and “realized that not only has the world changed, but that we have changed as well.”
“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,” he said. “It was clear that after everything we all experienced this past year, we couldn’t open the same restaurant.”
Humm continued, “I’m excited to share that 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.”
Eleven Madison Park will continue to work with local farms that it has deep connections to and with ingredients known to them, Humm said, “but we have found new ways to prepare them and to bring them to life.”
“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,” Humm explained. “We promised ourselves that we would only change direction if the experience would be as memorable as before.”
The team considered how they would be able to achieve the same level of flavor and texture from their expertly executed delicious dishes, such as lavender honey-glazed duck or butter-poached lobster, for a new menu with meat and seafood absent.
“It’s crucial to us that no matter the ingredients, the dish must live up to some of my favorites of the past,” he said of the challenge, which he admitted has kept him up at night worried about the risk to abandon dishes that once defined the famed Flatiron District dining room.
“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,” he said. “What at first felt limiting began to feel freeing, and we are only scratching the surface.”
With the high-profile restaurant reinvention, Humm said “the essence of EMP is stronger than it ever has been” and that he believes “the most exciting time in restaurants is to come.”
“The essence of EMP is stronger than it ever has been. We can’t wait to have you come and experience this new chapter of the restaurant. We look forward to sharing this journey with you.”
Eleven Madison Home, through which you can purchase meals to enjoy at home, is still available for pickup throughout the tri-state area until the end of May. Proceeds from every purchase go toward 10 meals donated through the Eleven Madison Truck.
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