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I’m writing this nearly 15 months after we closed our dining room, and I’m so excited to share that we will be reopening Eleven Madison Park on June 10th.
The pandemic brought our industry to its knees. With our closure, we laid off most of our team, and truly didn’t know if there was going to be an Eleven Madison Park.
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 New Yorkers experiencing food insecurity. Through this work, I experienced the magic of food in a whole new way, and I also saw a different side of our city – and today I love New York more than ever.
What began as an effort to keep our team employed while feeding people in need has become some of the most fulfilling work of my career. It is a chapter in my life that’s been deeply moving, and for which I am very grateful.
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 10th, every dinner you purchase will allow 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 Food. We’ve created a circular ecosystem where our guests, our team, and our suppliers all participate.
In the midst of last year, when we began to imagine what EMP 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 ever clearer that the current food system is simply not sustainable, in so many ways.
We use food to express ourselves as richly and authentically as our craft allows – and our creativity has always been tied to a specific moment in time. In this way, the restaurant is a personal expression in dialogue with our guests.
It was clear that after everything we all experienced this past year, we couldn’t open the same restaurant.
With that in mind, 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.
We’ve been working tirelessly to immerse ourselves in this cuisine. It’s been an incredible journey, a time of so much learning. We are continuing to work with local farms that we have deep connections to, and with ingredients known to us, 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. It wasn’t clear from the onset where we would end up. We promised ourselves that we would only change direction if the experience would be as memorable as before.
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?
It’s crucial to us that no matter the ingredients, the dish must live up to some of my favorites of the past. It’s a tremendous challenge to create something as satisfying as the lavender honey glazed duck, or the butter poached lobster, recipes that we perfected.
I’m not going to lie, at times I’m up in the middle of the night, thinking about the risk we’re taking abandoning dishes that once defined us.
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. What at first felt limiting began to feel freeing, and we are only scratching the surface.
All this has given us the confidence to reinvent what fine dining can be. It makes us believe that this is a risk worth taking.
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.
I believe that 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.
With love and gratitude,