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Friends –

While the idea for this year-end letter began to take shape well before recent events, I didn’t want to let the holidays pass without expressing my thanks for the support you’ve provided during one of the most gratifying years in the life of Eleven Madison Park.

There are many factors that drove our decision to serve a plant-based menu. Becoming better stewards of our planet was high on the list, but this shift was also the culmination of mounting creative frustrations, stemming from a steady decline in the quality of ingredients that were available to us. The culprit was, and is, climate.

Navigating this new landscape was challenging. I can tell you that when Eleven Madison Park was named the #1 restaurant in the world—a moment most would consider the pinnacle of a chef’s career—I found myself feeling empty. Where would we go now? How could we live up to the promise of continual improvement when the raw materials make that nearly impossible?

Then came the pandemic, a far bleaker picture. But we pushed ourselves to make the best of the situation. To be of service. We converted EMP into a community kitchen, founded the Eleven Madison Truck with Rethink Food, and provided hundreds of thousands of meals to those in need. With the dining room dark, I rediscovered the power of food as a language. And I realized that once we reopened, plants could open the door to new inspirations and a more conscientious path.

It was an obvious choice but not an easy one. Our team was apprehensive, and as we would soon learn, some of our closest collaborators also had their doubts.

Moments like these served as greater encouragement though. So did the renewed energy in the kitchen, and the joy coming from the dining room, where our guests have never been more diverse or enthusiastic. What could have turned out to be restrictive proved endlessly expansive. The most vibrant proof is on the plate: our dishes have never been better.

I can’t wait for what we have in store for 2022. I’m also excited to continue to participate, with great humility, in the most important conversation of our time, having been inspired by experiences like the one I had attending the U.N. Climate Change Conference in November. The names who assembled in Glasgow warmly welcomed less authoritative figures such as myself. “We’re all in this together” was the clear message.

Looking ahead, l would like to suggest a simple idea for the coming year. It might sound familiar.

How do you feel about committing to eating plant-based and plant-based alone just one day per week?

It can be overwhelming to consider the scale of potential solutions to climate change. (I’m right there with you.) But this can be put into action now, yielding immediate benefits for both our bodies and the planet. What makes this even more appealing is that it does not require sacrifice.

We have plans to elaborate further on how our restaurant will help spread this message. For now, I’ll simply mention that sixteen years into my tenure at Eleven Madison Park, I’ve never been happier with my decision to become a chef all those decades ago.

Here’s to a 2022 filled with health, happiness, and new discoveries—a future fueled by the knowledge that together we can change the world, one day at a time.

Thank you for everything.