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Daniel Humm’s all-vegan menu at Eleven Madison Park blossoms after rough patch

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Daniel Humm has two words for critics who roasted him after he ditched meat and fish for an all-vegan menu: Beet it!

The chef and owner of Eleven Madison Park has regained gastronomic glory while transforming his NoMad restaurant right into a vegan shrine over the past 19 months — and it’s not due to overwhelming support from the press.

When Humm first told diners their 10-course, $365 meal will not include duck, lobster and caviar, there was lots of customer angst, he confirms. Critics, meanwhile, took him to task for serving what they called pricey but predictable vegan fare.

Most famously, Recent York Times critic Pete Wells said a beet dish “tastes like Lemon Pledge and smells like a burning joint.”

Humm, 48, declined to comment specifically on the tough coverage. But he did admit that, on the outset, concocting a wholly plant-based menu proved to be an even bigger challenge than he had braced for.

“At first, we were like, ‘What’s the principal course?’” Humm said. “We didn’t know. There was no playbook that said the way it’s done.”

Ultimately, Humm says he was forced to rethink the dining experience. The accolades and acolytes returned, and EMP was awarded three Michelin stars in October — a vegan first. The celebrated restaurant guide praised Humm’s “zealous dedication to masterful precision” and called his all-plant menu “a daring vision of luxury dining.”

“The freshly baked, delicately crisped vegan roll presented with faux butter is a magical creation,” the guide gushed. “A quenelle of tonburi, mimicking caviar, plated with horseradish cream and accompanied by a radish tostada with a swipe of pumpkin seed butter is solely stunning.”

Humm prepares smoked potatoes with black truffle.Brian Zak/NY Post

As an alternative of using seasonal vegetables to accompany animal proteins, the season itself became the story, in accordance with Humm.

“I believed we can be limited but it surely seems we were limited before because we were cooking seasonal condiments for meat and fish. Today we’re cooking the season completely. The entire dish is of the season.”

Although reservations are not any longer not possible to get, the mood within the dining room is “almost euphoric and needless to say it’s since it is plant-based,” Humm said, adding the diners are younger and more diverse.

Humm prepares smoked potatoes with black truffle.Critics early on took Humm to task for serving pricey but predictable vegan fare.Brian Zak/NY Post

“Before, by the point people hit the principal course, the energy was crashing. People were full, sleepy and desired to go home,” the Swiss-born chef said. “Now it’s completely the other. Because the night goes on, the energy within the dining room completely rises.”

The pandemic was a key driver in forcing Humm, a former skilled cyclist, to shift gears. He shut the restaurant and transformed it right into a commissary with Rethink Food, founded by an EMP alum, and where Humm serves as a founding board member. The community kitchen served up 1 million meals in the course of the 16 months EMP was closed, he said.

When it was time to reopen the restaurant, Humm said, “it was clear that I needed to make use of the language of food since the pandemic not only exposed food insecurity, it exposed lots of broken systems, and I felt that I had a responsibility and unique platform, to be truly honest of what I actually have seen as a chef.”

Chef Daniel Humm in the kitchen at Eleven Madison Park.Chef Daniel Humm within the kitchen at Eleven Madison Park.
Brian Zak/NY Post

Now, Humm said his focus stays squarely on elevating vegan cuisine to its rightful place on the culinary table.

“I wanted to make use of my language to point out that you would be able to have an incredibly delicious, beautiful, magical meal without animal products,” he said. “I’m more convinced than ever that we’re on the suitable side of history.”

Today, a part of EMP’s $365-a-person tasting menu (for 8 to 10 courses) and its $195 per person bar tasting menu (6 courses) go towards the fee of the five hundred meals a day that EMP chefs cook and serve for the town’s food insecure from their truck. One meal on the restaurant provides five free meals to the food insecure, Humm said.

It’s also a solution to repurpose food waste, Humm added — countering criticism within the press on the contrary. He has also been hounded by reports of paying unliveable minimum wages for employees, which he declined to handle when asked by Side Dish.

Humm in the kitchen of Eleven Madison Park.Today, a part of EMP’s $365-a-person tasting menu and its $195 per person bar tasting menu go towards the fee of the five hundred meals a day that EMP chefs cook and serve for the town’s food insecure. Brian Zak/NY Post

Away from the kitchen, the divorced father of three — who dropped out of faculty at 14, left home at 15 and had his first child at 18 — has been linked to billionaire philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs, and actress Demi Moore. (His love life was one more topic he declined to delve into.)

Humm’s passion for plant-based cuisine has made him a poster child for people who kicked off the brand new 12 months by celebrating “Veganuary” – a worldwide campaign where people pledge to follow a vegan lifestyle for 30 days.

“Restaurants are embracing Veganuary like never before, from corner bodegas to Michelin starred restaurants like Eleven Madison Park,” said Wendy Matthews, US director of the nonprofit’s campaign.

Launched in 2014, a mere 3,325 people pledged to go vegan for a month. That number jumped to 400,000 in the course of the pandemic and was as much as 629,000 last 12 months, Matthews said.

We hear … There’s still time to cram in the perfect of the town’s holiday season from a number of the city’s most creative chefs and restaurateurs. Pop-ups abound and holiday decor is all over the place, including the Moxy Hotel’s Magic HOUR Rooftop lounge, with its Instagram-savy apres-ski carousel, and on the Macabee Bar for Hanukkah, within the West Village.

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