New York fine dining spot Eleven Madison Park has made history by becoming the first plant-based three Michelin-starred restaurant.
While Eleven Madison Park has had three Michelin stars now for 11 years, last week’s Michelin Guide announcement was the first since Chef Daniel Humm surprised food fanatics by taking meat off the restaurant’s menu in 2021.
Citing the unsustainable food system as his primary motivation, he has turned the menu 100 percent vegan.
The announcement came after the COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted the hospitality sector. In a statement posted to the restaurant’s website, he alluded to how the outbreak and the eatery’s forced hiatus had led him to believe that he “couldn’t open the same restaurant.”
Humm has previously called his plant-based gamble “a risk worth taking.” The sentiment appears confirmed by the upscale location’s extensive waiting list. Its retention of three stars despite the change in menu further bolsters the move.
“Last night, we were honored to be awarded three Michelin stars for the 11th year in a row,” he posted to Instagram.
“I am so beyond grateful to the team that’s with us here now and every member who contributed through its nearly 25-year history. We are also grateful to our guests and partners who believed in our vision and encouraged us to push harder.”
Taking meat off the high-end menu
Eleven Madison Park is one of a number of prestigious restaurants to ditch all or almost all meat in recent years.
Notable additions include Copenhagen-based three Michelin-starred Geranium. The upmarket location was crowned the top eatery on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list over the summer. It turned pescatarian at the start of the year. The location was converted by head chef Rasmus Kofoed, due to his desire to be more creative with fewer resources. Kofoed was also influenced by his vegetarian mother, following the success of a meat-free pop-up in her name, in 2020.
Michelin-star chef Alexis Gauthier turned his London brasserie, Gauthier Soho, vegan last summer in spite of opposition from diners. The move came after years of plant-based menu development that aligned with the chef’s own personal plant-based diet. This, plus a desire to stop profiting from the sale of dead animals which he deemed inappropriate.
To overcome diner disappointment, both Geranium and Gauthier Soho looked to create innovative and aesthetic dishes, using seasonal and sustainable produce. Eleven Madison Park has also experimented with food preparation techniques, adding microbial fermentation into the mix.
In a bid to replace infamous Eleven Madison Park dishes, including lavender duck, Humm created a $335 plant-based tasting menu. A Michelin inspector tested the menu at the end of summer 2022, subsequently awarding the restaurant a further year of three-star accreditation.
Serving up sustainability
Animal agriculture is an environmental catastrophe. Creating at least 14.5 percent of all human-made greenhouse gas emissions, it uses almost 80 percent of the world’s agricultural land to provide less than 20 percent of global calories.
Climate experts are in widespread agreement that a move away from meat is necessary to avoid total climate breakdown. However, cultivated meat is being touted as a compromise.
Requiring a fraction of the land, water, and energy resources, it uses cells taken from animals to “grow” meat in industrial bioreactors. No animals are slaughtered in the process, leading some observers to call the development the most ethical and sustainable form of meat. While cultivated meat isn’t yet available in the US market, some restaurants are committing to serving it in the future.
In 2019, French Michelin-starred chef Dominique Crenn turned all of her Bay Area restaurants pescatarian. She claimed the move was due to animal agriculture’s environmental impact. However, according to Forbes, she is reportedly looking into a partnership with food tech company Upside Foods. Crenn feels that cultivated meat will give diners the taste they want without contributing to the climate crisis.
Humm has made no reference yet to including cultivated meat on future Eleven Madison Park menus.