Eleven Madison Park is Reopening 6/10/21

A revamped EMP is reopening on June 10th. The menu will use no animal products.

The following is a letter from Chef Humm (copy & pasted from the current EMP homepage):

"Friends,

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,

Daniel"

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What a load of crap. If they were truly interested in food insecurity and not just propping up their own brand and egos, they would have supported one (or more) of the many organizations that deal with this everyday and do it well with little resources. I’m not buying it, they’re just trying to make themselves and their wealthy clients feel better in their own skin.

Isn’t Rethink Food one of those nonprofits? Giving away five meals for every one they serve is a bad thing?

Did you miss this part?

No.

Hmm… I wonder why they chose that one?

Oh.

Food insecurity is not going to be fixed by rich people and their “generosity.” This gets into far bigger a discussion than what EMP can offer even with good intentions, but again the original point stands. Other folks who know a lot more than them would have been much better at redirecting resources, if they had actually cared about this problem and not just wanted to “solve” it themselves.

If they truly cared about “community,” maybe they would pay their line cooks more than $13/hr.
https://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/Eleven-Madison-Park-Salaries-E710909.htm

But apparently their P.R. campaign is already working. Good on them. Now back to work…

You have some personal reason to trash those organizations anonymously?

Rethink Food has at least 45 employees and you don’t get rich doing what they’ve been doing. What’s your problem with their model?

Average reviews on Glassdoor are 3.8 stars. That’s a little higher than Le Bernardin or Masa.

In 2017, the site estimated with “low confidence” that line cook base hourly pay was $12-16 before bonuses and profit sharing.

I get that there is a positive side to EMP’s new concept (both the vegan menu & the philanthropy attached). I even get that EMP’s wage scale is better than many of similar stature. And, as an occasional customer of high end restaurants, I’m not in a position to moralize about the cost or profit margin or… well, any of the bigger picture issues. But, surely, we can all appreciate the point that EattheWorldLA raises – that Humm decided to be the center of attention here by forming “Rethink Food” instead of funneling funds &/or food into the many already existing groups with networks that have expertise in getting “bang for the buck” in fighting hunger (like World Central Kitchen, run by a similarly well regarded chef/owner who has put lots of time and personal energy into this). Yes, there’s room for more than one or two groups fighting hunger but, every time a group decides to do this, it means there’s a cost for infrastructure that takes away from the funds going to the needy. I, personally, in this situation, find it looks more like self promotion and trying to stay relevant and profitable (nothing wrong with that in our society) and less like a real charitable effort (or even nutritional concern). Humm has “re-invented” himself and EMP several times to do this and he lost me quite awhile ago. He’s far from my major concern these days, but he won’t be on my heroes list (or “go to” list either). I’ll spend and give my $$ elsewhere.

eta: to be a little more even handed, I’ll link a NYT article from awhile ago. There’s a lot of gray area in issues like this. Eleven Madison Park Reopens to Serve Citymeals on Wheels - The New York Times

Rethink Food was founded by Matt Jozwiak specifically to address the waste he was unable to eliminate when he was working in fine dining. As detailed in that Eater piece I linked to, it’s a new approach. The way they’ve structured it, I don’t see that they’re taking anything away from existing organizations that were letting all that fine-dining waste go to the trash.

We found a lot of success in collecting excess food by making it as easy as possible. A lot of people, when they have these programs, they don’t really think about the chefs. Chefs work 14-hour days. They’re exhausted, so asking them to do any extra work—it’s not fair. So we created systems that were chef-focused and provided containers and training and labels, just to make it as easy as humanly possible.

But we were always a hunger-focused organization. We just took excess food because it was the cheapest food we could find. If it were cheaper to buy it, we would’ve done that. So in the long term, when we were looking at what to do and how to scale, it just makes more sense in the future to teach chefs how to use their excess, pay the restaurant to do a little more work and hire another cook or do a couple of things, and then package the meals and get them out.

So I thought of removing my above post instead of just adding the eta part – a link to the NYT article – and this post. But I decided not to, after I spent the next part of the day looking at the details of “Rethink Food” and talking to some friends in the industry here in NYC, coming up with nothing other than positive impressions of the organization. It seems, contrary to what I had too quickly concluded, that this organization is quite separate from Humm (aside from him being a co-founder and a current major contributor to its programs – nothing wrong with that) & not a vanity piece. And I have to agree with Robert that it absolutely does not take away from other organizations’ operations. In fact, it seems to get food to people without undue cost, fanfare or pretense. And Humm seems to have played, and continues to play, a positive role in giving resources without gain (other than the publicity).
I guess its the continual re-invention of EMP, always with the utmost sincerity, that I react negatively to.

Maybe that’s just Humm, trying to keep himself entertained, interested and working. And, in that regard, I don’t have to go. Unless, of course, he starts serving a side of duck with the vegan entrees. And lowers the price to fit my budget.

Bottom line: I should’ve researched before just reacting/posting & you all should take my posts with a grain of (very well sourced organic free range) salt.

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not sure if relevant, but saw him dining at a high-end sushi place just last week