Chef Daniel Humm’s all-vegan menu at Eleven Madison Park blossoms after rough patch

Daniel Humm has two words for the critics who roasted him after ditching meat and fish for an all-vegan menu: Beet it!

The chef and owner of Eleven Madison Park has returned to gastronomic glory while transforming his NoMad restaurant into a vegan sanctuary over the past 19 months — and it’s not thanks to overwhelming press support.

When Humm first told diners that their $365 10-course meal would no longer include duck, lobster and caviar, there was a lot of angst among customers, he confirms. Critics, meanwhile, chastised it for serving what they called pricey but predictable vegan dishes.

Even more famously, New York Times critic Pete Wells said that a dish of beets “taste like Lemon Pledge and smelled like a hot joint.”

Humm, 48, declined to comment specifically on the difficult cover. But he admitted that initially, concocting an all-plant-based menu proved to be a bigger challenge than he had prepared for.

“At first we were like, ‘What’s the main course?'” Humm said. ” We did not know. There was no playbook that said how it was done.

Ultimately, Humm says he was forced to rethink the dining experience. The accolades and sidekicks returned, and EMP was awarded three Michelin stars in October – a vegan first. The prestigious restaurant guide hailed Humm’s “zealous dedication to masterful precision” and called his all-vegetable menu a “bold vision of luxury dining.”

“The freshly baked, delicately crispy vegan roll presented with faux butter is a magical creation,” the guide said. “A tonburi quenelle, imitating caviar, slathered with horseradish cream and served with a radish tostada with a kick of pumpkin seed butter is simply breathtaking.”

Humm prepares smoked potatoes with black truffles.
Brian Zak/New York Post

Instead of using seasonal vegetables to accompany animal protein, the season itself became the story, according to Humm.

“I thought we would be limited but it turns out we were limited before because we were cooking seasonal condiments for meat and fish. Today we are completely cooking the season. All the dishes are seasonal.

Although reservations are no longer impossible to get, the vibe in the dining room is “almost euphoric and that’s for sure because it’s plant-based,” Humm said, adding that diners are younger. and more diverse.

Humm prepares smoked potatoes with black truffles.
From the start, critics criticized Humm for serving expensive but predictable vegan dishes.
Brian Zak/New York Post

“Before, as people entered the main course, the energy would crash. People were full, sleepy and wanted to go home,” the Swiss-born chef said. “Now it’s completely the opposite. As the night progresses, the energy in the dining room rises completely.

The pandemic was a key factor in forcing Humm, a former professional cyclist, to shift gears. He closed the restaurant and turned it into a commissary with Rethink Food, founded by a former EMP, and where Humm is a founding board member. The community kitchen served 1 million meals during the 16 months the EMP was closed, he said.

When it came time to reopen the restaurant, Humm said, “it was clear that I had to use the language of food because the pandemic not only exposed food insecurity but also many failing systems, and I felt that I I had a unique responsibility and platform, to be really honest from what I’ve seen as a leader.

Chef Daniel Humm in the kitchen at Eleven Madison Park.
Chef Daniel Humm in the kitchen at Eleven Madison Park.
Brian Zak/New York Post

Now, Humm said her goal remains to give vegan cooking its rightful place at the culinary table.

“I wanted to use my language to show that you can have an incredibly delicious, beautiful, and magical meal without animal products,” he said. “I am more convinced than ever that we are on the right side of history.”

Today, part of EMP’s $365 per person tasting menu (for 8-10 courses) and its $195 per person (6-course) bar tasting menu covers the cost of the 500 meals a day that EMP chefs cook and serve for the townspeople. food insecurity from their truck. A meal at a restaurant provides five free meals for people who are food insecure, Humm said.

It’s also a way to reuse food waste, Humm added, contradicting press criticism to the contrary. He was also harassed by reports of unlivable minimum wages for staff, which he refused to meet at Side Dish’s request.

Yum in the kitchen at Eleven Madison Park.
Today, part of EMP’s $365 per person tasting menu and $195 per person bar tasting menu covers the cost of the 500 meals a day that EMP chefs cook and serve to people in dire straits. of food insecurity in the city.
Brian Zak/New York Post

Away from the kitchen, the divorced father of three – who dropped out of school at 14, left home at 15 and had his first child at 18 – has been linked to billionaire philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs, and actress Demi Moore. (His love life was yet another subject he declined to delve into.)

Humm’s passion for plant-based cooking has made him a figurehead for those who 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 campaign.

Launched in 2014, only 3,325 people pledged to go vegan for a month. That number jumped to 400,000 during the pandemic and 629,000 last year, Matthews said.

We hear … There’s still time to soak up the best of the city’s holiday season with some of the city’s most creative chefs and restaurateurs. Pop-ups abound and holiday decor is everywhere, including the Moxy Hotel’s Magic HOUR Rooftop Lounge, with its Instagram-inspired après-ski carousel, and Macabee Bar for Hanukkah in the West Village.

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