As restaurants across the country begin to reopen after a particularly devastating year, a Michelin three-star restaurant in New York City says it is turning over a new leaf by no longer serving meat.
Eleven Madison Park, which was crowned the world’s best restaurant in 2017, announced Monday that it is reopening in June with an entirely plant-based menu in an effort to be more environmentally conscious and sustainable.
“It was clear that after everything we all experienced this past year, we couldn’t open the same restaurant,” chef Daniel Humm, who took over the Manhattan restaurant in 2011, said in a statement posted on his website. “It is time to redefine luxury as an experience that serves a higher purpose and maintains a genuine connection to the community.”
Since the elite restaurant was forced to stop serving indoors early last year due to the coronavirus, Eleven Madison Park has produced meals for local hospitals, first responders and people in need.
“We were walking food to people’s apartments and just getting to experience New York in a whole different way,” Humm recently told The Wall Street Journal.
In 2017, the chef co-founded the nonprofit Rethink Food, which turns excess restaurant food into meals for local communities. But when he began considering the reopening of Eleven Madison Park, famed for its honey lavender roasted duck, he said he couldn’t go back to how things were.
“Our practices of animal production, what we’re doing to the oceans, the amount we consume: It is not sustainable,” he told the Journal. “If Eleven Madison Park is truly at the forefront of dining and culinary innovation, to me it’s crystal clear that this is the only place to go next.”
The new menu will include vegetable broth and stock and fully plant-based milk, butter and cream. The restaurant won’t be fully vegan, however. Humm told the Journal it will continue to offer milk and honey for coffee and tea.
Studies have shown that plant-based diets can reduce carbon emissions as well as water and land use. Animals typically require far more food, water, time and cleared agricultural land to grow compared to plants. Cows also emit high levels of methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas.
“If each and every person in the United States gave up meat and dairy products on one or more days of the week, ideally, all days of the week, we would save the environment from thousands of tons of carbon emissions,” wrote senior health dietitian Dana Hunnes for UCLA Sustainability.
“We would be saving untouched habitats (Rainforests, marshes) from being destroyed to produce more livestock feed, and we would be creating less pollution in our waterways, streams, and oceans that indirectly threaten human, animal, and plant lives,” Hunnes said.
Nationwide, plant-based diets appear to be catching on among Americans, with 28% of respondents saying they ate more plant-sourced protein in 2020 than in 2019, according to the International Food Information Council’s 2020 Food & Health Survey. There was also a reported 24% increase in plant-based dairy and a 17% increase in plant-based meat alternatives compared to the previous year.
Globally, however, the demand for meat has more than tripled within the last 50 years. A country’s meat consumption increases as it gets richer. The same can be said for dairy consumption, according to Our World Data.
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