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In the midst of last year, when we began to imagine what Eleven Madison Park would be like after the pandemic – when we started to think about food in creative ways again – we 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 clearer that the current food system is simply not sustainable, in so many ways.
The pandemic brought our industry to its knees. We kept a small team employed, and with their remarkable effort, in collaboration with the nonprofit Rethink Food, we prepared close to a million meals for those experiencing food insecurity in New York. Through this work, I experienced the magic of food in a whole new way, and I also saw a different side of our city. Today I love New York more than ever.
It was clear to me then that this work must become a cornerstone of our restaurant. Therefore, we’ve evolved our business model.
Now, at Eleven Madison Park, every dinner purchased allows us to provide five meals to food-insecure New Yorkers. This food is being delivered by Eleven Madison Truck, which is operated by our staff in partnership with Rethink. We’ve created a circular ecosystem where our guests, our team, and our suppliers all participate.
After everything we have experienced, it was clear that we couldn’t open the same restaurant in early June.
With that in mind, we made the decision to serve a plant-based menu. We asked ourselves: What are the most delicious aspects of our dishes, and how could we achieve the same level of flavor and texture without meat?
We’ve been working tirelessly to immerse ourselves in this cuisine, and I find myself most moved and inspired by dishes that center impeccably-prepared vegetables. This decision was inspired by the challenge to get to know our ingredients more deeply, and to push ourselves creatively. Regardless, it’s crucial to us that no matter the ingredients, the dish must live up to some of my favorites of the past, and the reputation we’ve created for ourselves here.
I won’t lie, at times I woke up in the middle of night thinking about the risk we were taking abandoning dishes that once defined us. But then I returned to the kitchen, and to our team.
We obsessed over making the most flavorful vegetable broths and stocks. Our days were, and are, consumed by developing fully plant-based milks, butters and creams. We explored fermentation, and began to understand that time is one of the most precious ingredients. What at first felt limiting began to feel freeing, and we were only scratching the surface.
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, and we are thrilled to be able to share the incredible possibilities of plant-based cuisine.
The most exciting time in restaurants is still to come. The essence of Eleven Madison Park is stronger than it has ever been, and we look forward to sharing this journey with you.
With love and gratitude,