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November 1, 2023 52 mins

Daniel Humm is by all accounts one of the most celebrated chefs in the world: number 1 on the World’s Best Restaurant List, a decade-long streak of 3 Michelin stars, and a starry list of accolades for his kitchens. But after running a community food commissary during pandemic, he made the bold move to remove animal products from the menu of his acclaimed Eleven Madison Park. He talks to Martha here about the urgency of reducing our meat consumption and evolving the way we eat.

 

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
When I put my creative hat back on, I knew
that I had changed, and I knew that I had
no interest in reopening the same eleven Madison Park as before.

Speaker 2 (00:15):
Hello, this is Martha Stewart and this is my podcast.
And following is probably the longest introduction of any of
my podcasts to date. First Michelin Star, at age twenty four,
the number one restaurant in the world. More than a
decade of three Michelin Stars, Chef Daniel hum has earned

(00:37):
the highest accolades in the culinary world. He is the
ambitious chef at the Helm of eleven Madison Park, a
fine dining restaurant in the Flat Iron District in New
York City. Eleven Madison Park turned twenty five years old
this month, and chef whom is here to talk to
us today about its history and the distinct ways in

(00:58):
which it has evolved, including its most radical reinvention to
date as an entirely plant based restaurant. Welcome to my podcast.

Speaker 1 (01:08):
Thank you so much, Mark, Chef.

Speaker 2 (01:11):
Let me call you, Chef, Well, you just celebrated the
twenty fifth anniversary of your beautiful restaurant. I live in
Madison Park. Congratulations, can you tell us a little bit
about the history about Danny Meyer in the beginning of
this iconic.

Speaker 1 (01:27):
Rest Of course, thank you so much for having me.
The restaurant opened in nineteen ninety eight before me, Danny
Meyer opened the restaurant, And as you said, it's in
the Flatiron District, and it's right adjacent to Madison Square Park,
and it was quite visionary at that time to open
a restaurant in that location because Madison Square Park wasn't

(01:51):
what it is today. Today it's a beautiful park, but
back then it was quite dilapidated, and that whole wilrio
wasn't what it was to do. And that's I think
the beauty to see how a restaurant actually can change
a neighborhood. And I think Danny Meyer deserves a lot
of credit for that. I think he has done that
in a lot of places in New York City. He

(02:14):
opened a restaurant as a barrassary. The restaurant is located
in a historical building. The building was meant to become
the tallest building in the world. It was built in
nineteen twenty eight. Then the Great Depression hit. They ran
out of money and just the build was halted. Actually

(02:34):
the building is an entire city block large, but it
only is thirty stories tall, and it was meant to
be over one hundred of What we ended up with
is these gigantic arches for the entrance of the restaurant,
even the lobby, which is where our restaurant is located.

(02:55):
The scale is as if you would be in the
tallest built in the world. So were the beneficiary of
those scales.

Speaker 2 (03:04):
It's so amazing to walk into that restaurant and feel
so surrounded by very tall ceilings unlike any other restaurant,
and so luxurious in architecture.

Speaker 1 (03:15):
I mean, for me, when I first stepped foot into
the restaurant, I just knew that I had entered one
of the most beautiful restaurant spaces I've ever seen or
ever been in, And it was clear that it had
the potential to be something very very special.

Speaker 2 (03:34):
And who was the chef when Danny Meyer opened the restaurant.

Speaker 1 (03:37):
The chef was Carrie Huffernan, and he was the opening
chef and he remained the chef until.

Speaker 2 (03:43):
I joined, and you joined in what year?

Speaker 1 (03:47):
I started in two thousand and six. In January two
thousand and six, I was briefly in San Francisco for
two years before coming there from Switzerland, where I grew up. Yeah,
I've been there also eighteen years in the twenty five year.

Speaker 2 (04:01):
History, and an amazing eighteen years it has been. It's
been you do not You're like the rolling stone. You
don't get covered any moss anywhere. Boy, you just you
evolve and evolve and evolve and change and so great.
I love that about you.

Speaker 1 (04:15):
Thank you so much.

Speaker 2 (04:16):
So what are you doing to celebrate the twenty fifth anniversary?
Are you eating silver? Have you figured out a way
to cook silver?

Speaker 1 (04:26):
No? We actually, you know, it was it was an interesting,
interesting question. I mean, we created a money that is
a retrospective and pays homage to all these years and
all these there's been many different chapters along the way.
And you know, as you said, we turned the restaurant
into fully plant based after the pandemic almost three years

(04:49):
ago now, and the big question was, you know, are
we gonna cook the fish and meat dishes from the
past to paid tribute. But our team felt very strongly
that no, we are now you know, fully committed to
this plant based journey.

Speaker 2 (05:10):
So don't go there looking for doc.

Speaker 1 (05:12):
No. The doc won't be there. But what it was interesting,
even as a refresher for us, it was to see that,
you know, this actually didn't happen overnight. We always were
creative with vegetables, and we always loved to really push
vegetables to the foreground. Even there. There's a dish that
is the Kara Turtar, and this dish was created in

(05:35):
twenty ten, and at that time we knew we wanted
to be an iconic New York City restaurant, so we
studied the iconic restaurants like the twenty one Club or
the Four Seasons Restaurant or the Delmonicos, and what we
saw is that they all had a version on a
steak tartar on their money. So we're like, well, we
also need one. And for like a year we worked

(05:58):
on that dish, and we worked with different dry aged
beef and venison and all kinds of things, and we
just couldn't figure out how we would add something new
to this dish. And after like a year, we knew
that we wanted to grind the meat table size in
one of those old school grinders, but we couldn't figure

(06:19):
it out. And then one day I spent time in Warwick,
New York, up state, and I spent time with this farmer,
Alex Pathnroth, who is like a master in growing carrots,
and he talked my ears off for an entire day
about the sweet carrot, about the medic carrot, about the
city carroda. And so by the time I came back

(06:40):
to the restaurant that night and we were having another
sort of like R and D session, and I looked
at the carrots and I looked at the meat, and
it was just clear that the best version on a
steak tartar, even in our eyes, even in twenty ten,
ended up actually being a carrot tartar. So this has
been and sort of like long in the making.

Speaker 2 (07:03):
Guess what I just had the other night. Tell me
I had beach tartar, Oh my god, at the Stone Barns.
Amazing and it was incredibly delicious. And it's their new beat.
They have just developed a new beat, you know, they
develop hybrids of all kinds of vegetables, and this kind

(07:23):
of red light red beat tastes just like steak tartar
beautiful and it was wonderful. And so here I'm coming
back to taste the twenty eleven, So what's in it?

Speaker 1 (07:39):
I mean, I just wanted to also give a shout
out to Dan Barber at Stone Barns. I think he's
a real pioneer in growing and cooking the vegetables. And
I have so much respect for love credible.

Speaker 2 (07:53):
Job at Stone Barns. I mean, it's hard for me
to eat real steak tartar now after tasting the beat.
And I want to taste your carrot. I have beautiful
big carrots in my garden, but what kind of carrots
should we be using? Old carrots? New carrots?

Speaker 1 (08:08):
We used this like French carrot called charon.

Speaker 2 (08:12):
Yeah. Oh I had that, Yeah, that one.

Speaker 1 (08:13):
And that to me, that is like the best for
this dish.

Speaker 2 (08:17):
It does it matter if the carrots are like a
little bit old in the ground with hair on them, It.

Speaker 1 (08:21):
Does not mess. It matters. It's actually no, it's actually
not good. It's actually sweetness. And we even leave some
of the We actually leave even some of the skin
as we're doing the dish because it has a little
bit more often earth.

Speaker 2 (08:32):
So you grinded the old hand grinder. Oh yeah, I'm
coming right away for that. I want to taste. So
how did you meet Danny Meyer in the first place.
I mean you were in California.

Speaker 1 (08:42):
Yeah, you know, Danny Meyer came. I was at a
restaurant called the Campton Place.

Speaker 2 (08:46):
Oh. I loved Campton Place, And yeah, I used to
stay in that hotel really. Oh yeah, when I started
going on book tours. So nineteen eighty two was my
first book tour, and then in nineteen ninety ish I
stayed at the Campton Place and I stayed there until
until it kind of like lost its luster. But it
was such a lovely and who was the original chef there.

(09:08):
He was very famous at the time.

Speaker 1 (09:11):
It was Bradley.

Speaker 2 (09:12):
That's right, Bradley. And where is he?

Speaker 1 (09:17):
I don't know what happened to you. I know he
opened the restaurant in Las Vegas at some point he did.

Speaker 2 (09:21):
Oh, he was such that was innovative food. It was.
So that's where you went to The Campton Place.

Speaker 1 (09:27):
Yeah, and they had a history of a few very
successful that was on a park also, yeah, it was.
But Danny Meyer ate there and I was really brand
new to America and he ate there and and then
three days later.

Speaker 2 (09:43):
He got an offer.

Speaker 1 (09:44):
He called and I didn't know who he was, and
then I said, who is Danny Weyre And then everyone
was like, yeah, you should probably take that call. It
was also interesting he he sort of had this opportunity
of eleven Madison Park, and I said, you, you know,
I really love New York and I could really see
myself in New York. But in three days we are

(10:07):
actually going to get four stars, which was the highest
rating in the San Francisco Chronicle. So I told him
that the timing might not be perfect, because when you
get this kind of award, you want to stay for
a while and kind of show, you know, because then
everyone is coming.

Speaker 2 (10:24):
And so you were you were you the chef at
the time.

Speaker 1 (10:26):
Yeah, yeah, But then there was actually an ownership change
in the hotel as a family owned and then a
big chain kind of bought it, and then it all
kind of worked out. I visited New York, I met
with Danny, we walked through the space. I had the
feeling that this could be one of the great restaurants

(10:49):
in the world.

Speaker 2 (10:49):
What did you learn from Danny Meyer, who is still
very active in the restaurant world. He took his company
public after he built a Shakeshack.

Speaker 1 (10:58):
I mean, I learned so much from him, but I
think one of the big things is he put language
around what we are doing in restaurants, like the way
we take care of people, the way we take care
of ourselves. He just put language around all of it.

(11:19):
He made it more noble.

Speaker 2 (11:21):
He made it a very important industry.

Speaker 1 (11:23):
I think that's not right.

Speaker 2 (11:24):
And he brought hospitality to that world, didn't he.

Speaker 1 (11:27):
He made it something you would be proud of to
be part of it.

Speaker 2 (11:32):
And you have continued in that tradition very nicely. I
must say, yeah, thank you really wonderfully. So where did
you grow up? I mean, go, let's go back. I
want to know a little bit more. I mean, you
grew up in Switzerland where.

Speaker 1 (11:44):
I grew up in Zurich. I grew up with hippie parents.
In fact, I grew up eating vegetarian very few times.
Once in a while we had like a chicken from
some farm. But this is like twice a year kind
of thing, but mostly vegetarian. But I also had kind
of a difficult relationship with my parents, and I was

(12:05):
I left home when I was fifteen years old to
become a professional cyclist. All I cared about was bicycle
racing and winning bicycle races and then when I was
twenty two years old, I had an accident and biking
and I were in a race, in a race in

(12:27):
Switzerland in the Alps, in the Alps, and I ended
up being a hospital for quite a long time. I
was in a coma.

Speaker 2 (12:35):
Actually, did the parent your parents come to visit you?

Speaker 1 (12:37):
They didn't come to me.

Speaker 2 (12:39):
By that time you were reunited.

Speaker 1 (12:41):
Yeah, I love it, okay, yes, but I did not
even you know. And then growing up, I was this
kind of weird kid that would bring the school lunch
in a glass topper wear and there was we only
had home baked things, and I always felt like embarrassed
towards the other kids who had like things from the

(13:02):
grocery stores. And I wanted to have that, but I
never did. But then I realized how lucky I was
to develop this love for real food and real taste,
and becoming a cyclist. What I ate became very important
to me as well. And then when I had the accident,

(13:23):
I left school when I was fourteen years old, so
I didn't really.

Speaker 2 (13:26):
What happened in the accident described the hideous accident.

Speaker 1 (13:29):
It was in a race and we trained on the course.
It was a mountain bike race, and we trained on
the course the whole week leading up to it. But
then in the race, I was at a very different
speed and I just it was in a curve and
I thought I could take the curve at a high
speed and I just couldn't. I went over the rocks.

(13:52):
Thankfully I didn't hit my head, but I had a
lot of internal bleedings and a lot of broken bones,
and iirlifted.

Speaker 2 (13:59):
And you would never know this from looking at at
the handsome Daniel home right now, and you walk very
straight and very and very nice. So you're all better.

Speaker 1 (14:09):
I'm all good, and you know, I'm definitely dedicated to
that work. I'm practicing yoga almost every day, and I
recommend it to everyone. I think if there's one activity
you should do for the rest of your life, it
should be along the lines of yoga or pilates. I
think it's beyond crucial.

Speaker 2 (14:29):
Very important. Well so so twenty three, you're so so.

Speaker 1 (14:34):
Then I was in the hospital and I'm like, you know,
I do have this love for food. And actually you
might know this restaurant, but it was a restaurant Freddie
Share day.

Speaker 2 (14:45):
It was like Freddy, Sure, Oh gosh, I Madelgrimages.

Speaker 1 (14:51):
And this is actually where I went to go. Really
it was at that time the only three star restaurant
in Switzerland.

Speaker 2 (14:58):
And you know, he was extremely innovative and extremely beautiful food.

Speaker 1 (15:04):
One of the founding fathers of like novel quis what
we know today as a fine dining and he loved cycling,
so he was obsessed with cycling and the cycling culture.
And we were there with our team when I was
like eighteen years old and we had a big race
and on the way home he actually invited our team.

(15:24):
I was part of the Swiss national team, and he
invited us to have dinner and we had dinner in
the kitchen and it was the first time I saw
a professional kitchen on that level. There were like twenty
chefs and everyone impeccable white, impeccable cleanliness, and they were
working like it was a ballet. And there I felt like, wow,

(15:49):
cooking on this level is kind of like a sport.
And when I then was in the hospital, I'm like,
I want to do that, and I called him and
it was on a Friday, and he said, can you
start on Tuesday? And at that time there was a
waiting list and people waited two years to get a charge.
He took me and I made cooking my new sport,

(16:14):
and it was about winning, and it was about working
for the best, becoming the best, and then eventually it
was about winning awards.

Speaker 2 (16:23):
So then at twenty four years old, you actually won
a Michelin Star.

Speaker 1 (16:28):
Yeah. So two years after I left Freddie Shure day
and I went to go work in this small inn
in Switzerland. And I was only there for four months,
and then I got a call from Michla and they said, well,
there's been seeing what I'm doing. I'm going to get
a Michelin Star.

Speaker 2 (16:46):
And say, what was the name of that restaurant.

Speaker 1 (16:48):
It was called Ghosthouse, some beautiful restaurant overlooking the Alps
and the lakes. It was outside of Sankolin. But you know, Martha,
I was not ready for this at all. Like I
didn't know who I was as a chef. I didn't
know who I was as a person, and all of
a sudden I got all this attention that was quite

(17:10):
difficult and overwhelming.

Speaker 2 (17:12):
And it would have longed to stay at that restaurant.

Speaker 1 (17:14):
I only stayed there two years. Also, and one day
I got a call from a hotelier in San Francisco
who happened to be Swiss, and he said, oh, he
heard about my cooking, and I'm looking for a chef
to move to America and I would love for you
to come. And in my head it was like, oh

(17:35):
my god, like I never thought of America as like
a culinary destination. And I didn't speak English at that time. Wow,
And so I said, you know, this is probably not
for me, but thank you. But he was very persistent
and he called again, and eventually he invited me to
come to San Francisco to visit, all paid for, which

(17:56):
at that point I was like, okay, I'm going to
take that opportunity. And I remember and this was Campton
Place was Campton Place, and he was there, I remember
so well. The hotel GM waited for me in his
silver BMW at the airport when I arrived, and he
took me right up to the Napa Valley and we

(18:18):
went to go see whinyards wate at the French Laundry,
and then on the way back we went to Shapanice
and then we saw the farmers market at the Ferry Building,
and within four days I was sold. I saw an
energy and an excitement for food and artisans and farming
like I felt like I never saw before. And after

(18:42):
I left, it was clear to me that I wanted
to be in San Francisco.

Speaker 2 (18:46):
Well, and then you accepted the job. I accepted the
to go back to Switzerland and finish up some stuff.

Speaker 1 (18:52):
Yeah, I went back to Switzerland. I finished my job there.
I also had to get a visa and I actually
you got a CHA one student visa for one year,
and I came back on a Lufthansa flight. I didn't
know that much about Campton Place or I was just
excited about the city. I was lucky because Campton Place

(19:15):
had a history of all these well known chefs, so
people paid attention what was happening there. And again there
things happened so quickly. I got a Chain Spirit award
within the first six months, as like rising Star Chef.
And this was actually the first time I moved to

(19:35):
New York City. And again I didn't speak English.

Speaker 2 (19:40):
How did you learn you're speaking so well now?

Speaker 1 (19:42):
Well?

Speaker 2 (19:43):
Did you take courses?

Speaker 1 (19:45):
No courses just in the kitchen. I never went to
cooking school. I never taken English courses.

Speaker 2 (19:52):
Are these the only two languages speak French, French and
English and English. Yeah, yeah, wow, it's very very impressive.

Speaker 1 (20:01):
Yeah, my path has been that. You know, I never
finished even high school, so I think I learned a
lot on the go. And it's been okay.

Speaker 2 (20:19):
So you stayed at came from place for how long?

Speaker 1 (20:20):
Two years?

Speaker 2 (20:21):
Okay?

Speaker 1 (20:22):
And then Danny Meyer came and I moved to New
York because I felt that New York was the place
to be. And Andy levin Madison Park, I've never seen
a more beautiful restaurant. And I felt like I could
stay there for a long time.

Speaker 2 (20:36):
And did you come as the chef at that time?

Speaker 1 (20:38):
I became as the chef and then I had a
business partner in the dining room.

Speaker 2 (20:44):
That was Will.

Speaker 1 (20:44):
That was Will Yes, and then that's.

Speaker 2 (20:47):
Will good Era. Everyone you've heard, I hope my podcast
with Will. We had a nice conversation in this room.
And he was so excited when you won the World's
Best Restaurant award that was twenty seventeen.

Speaker 1 (20:59):
Yeah, well so yeah, it was incredible, but it was
it was mixed because for me, it was all about
winning and I wanted to win every award, and we
won all the awards, and as we were going. I
always understood intellectually that none of these awards are that meaningful.

(21:23):
But what was meaningful it was that it gave something
to talk about with your team. It gave the team
a direction. It's easy to understand. It's measurable too, and
it does make the restaurant better and better and better.
But the problem was, as we won after the other
after the other, when we became the best restaurant in

(21:44):
the world, there was not a single award that was
left to win, and so it was actually quite disorienting,
and I knew that there had to be.

Speaker 2 (21:55):
Some to start thinking about reward. After awards, you think
about the reward and the money and the financial success
and getting everything in all your ducks in order right.

Speaker 1 (22:11):
And that's complicated too.

Speaker 2 (22:12):
Very cool, you know, and you were with Will for
how long he was your was he a very very
close partner.

Speaker 1 (22:19):
We were super close to I mean, we built so
much together. I think we were very successful and powerful
as long as we had the same goal. And I
think we spent every day talking about how to become
the best restaurant in the world, but we never talked

(22:39):
about what happens when we become the best restaurant, but
not for five minutes. We just never talked about.

Speaker 2 (22:46):
Not about expansion, not about We.

Speaker 1 (22:49):
Really didn't talk about that. And then the moment we became.

Speaker 2 (22:54):
How did you celebrate when you won that award the
best restaurant? How did you guys celebrate?

Speaker 1 (22:59):
I mean, we definitely always celebrated. We always have parties.
And actually Questlove, who is a friend of mine, came
and DJA the party at eleven Madison Park. And when
we became the best restaurant in the world, it was
also right before when we closed the restaurant for eight
months for major renovation, and right before that we had

(23:22):
a huge party with Quest Love, and he told me
that this was the longest DJ said he's ever played.
He played till like six in the morning, and it
was a blast. And then we renovated the restaurant, and
then I think we all sort of tried to figure
out what the future looks like and where to go next,
which wasn't an easy twenty nineteen or something like this

(23:45):
in twenty eighteen eighteen, Yeah.

Speaker 2 (23:47):
And so is that when when you split your partnership
split up?

Speaker 1 (23:52):
Yeah, So we decided to go different paths because we
didn't see eye too, I anymore?

Speaker 2 (23:58):
And personally were you worried? Were you single? What? What
were the two of you doing personally?

Speaker 1 (24:04):
Personally? Will was married and I have had been divorced
for five years at that point, so was single.

Speaker 2 (24:13):
Yeah, so you you were totally business focused, but or
cooking focused.

Speaker 1 (24:18):
The thing I'm trying to still find an answer for.
But I am so focused on my work and it's
truly the number one priority in my life, and it's
what I think about when I get up, and it's
what I think about when I go to bed. And

(24:40):
I really love what I do so much. But sometimes
I wonder, you know still how to find the balance
in life. But maybe this is not exactly for this lifetime.
Maybe in this lifetime it's meant to be very Balance is.

Speaker 2 (24:58):
Very hard to find. I think men have more trouble
finding balance than men have because men's careers are usually
a life career and women change a lot. But it
is hard. Balance is extremely difficult. And balancing a social life,
a business life, of travel life, whatever. Oh, it's so hard.

(25:21):
So so you dissolve the partnership.

Speaker 1 (25:25):
Yeah, and then the pandemic hits, the pandemically.

Speaker 2 (25:28):
Evil twenty and twenty twenty twenty years.

Speaker 1 (25:31):
It's devastating because if you think about it's almost every
ten years, So it was like two and one and
then ten years later the financial crisis and then pandemic.
But the pandemic we had two hundred and fifty employees
at that point. We had people from all over the world.
And there was one night, I think it was March sixteen,

(25:53):
twenty twenty, when the city got shut down, and I
remember our restaurant was full, full, full till the last day,
and then we took the whole staff together and we said, hey,
you know, the city shutting down, we're probably going to
see each other again in two weeks or so. That
team has never been together ever since. I mean we
were close for almost two years, two entire years no business.

Speaker 2 (26:16):
And it didn't happen.

Speaker 1 (26:17):
Yeah, And you know, in real estate people talk about location, location, location.
In restaurants, it's about people, people people. So no matter
how beautiful the restaurant eleven Madison Park is, without its
incredible people, it's just an empty shell. So that was

(26:38):
really heartbreaking and we had to grabble around that. We're
also facing extreme difficulties financially because if you have no
business and you have rent and still costs, you can't
pay it, So we're actually facing bankruptcy.

Speaker 2 (26:56):
Were using all owner at the time.

Speaker 1 (26:57):
At that time, I was the solow Yeah, and I
am a co founder of an organization called Rethink Food.
We take food from restaurants, we cook meals for people
in need. And because of that, I was super tapped
into what was going on around food and security in
New York City. New York City has eight million people

(27:20):
before pandemic, there's a million people of food insecure. Within
the first two weeks of the pandemic, I can just
imagine the number doubled. It's twenty five percent of New
York City being food insecure. And I'm not speaking about
homeless people. These are people with three jobs just having
a hard time bringing food on the table.

Speaker 2 (27:40):
And kids, yeah and so, and kids at home who
eat more at home.

Speaker 1 (27:45):
Because were not in schools, the schools.

Speaker 2 (27:48):
Which they relied on.

Speaker 1 (27:49):
Yes, So now I'm sitting here having lost my team,
facing bankruptcy, which I don't wish anyone, but I knew
I had a space, I knew had access to some cooks,
and I knew that the farmers are also sitting on
food that's going bad. So I decided to turn eleven

(28:10):
Mileson Park into a community kitchen, and we brought a
team back within the first three weeks of the pandemic,
and we raised some money and we just started cooking
meals for people in need. And at the height, we
cooked eight thousand meals every single day. And that work
changed my life because not only did we cook the meals,

(28:32):
but we also went out into the neighborhoods, like I
went to neighborhoods. And I've been living in New York
for twenty years, and I felt guilty. But I live
in a very small sliver of New York City, and
all of a sudden, I'm in parts of Brooklyn, in
East New York, I in Harlem, i' mean Queens. I'm

(28:54):
in all these places, and I'm also meeting amazing people,
these amazing angels. There are people who do in God's work,
people who give everything, who have very little, and so
not only all of a sudden, I got up in
the morning, in the midst of the pandemic, and I
felt a happiness. I felt like I wanted to get up.

(29:14):
I felt like my work, my cooking. For the first
time in my life is actually making a difference, and
so I knew that I had found something bigger. And
during the pandemic, I wasn't sure if I ever wanted
to open eleven Madison Park again, because I felt like

(29:35):
I brought what I wanted to do, become the best
chef in the world. I feel like I did that.
I didn't know what else there is to do. And
the truth is, in the end, it made me feel
empty all the awards, and I did it for my
ego and my team's ego. And so during the pandemic,
I realized that I wanted to do something that was

(29:56):
more meaningful and it had to be about giving back
in some way. Six months into the pandemic, the landlord
called me, a big landlord in New York City, s
el Green they called me, and I thought, oh, maybe
they're going to kick me out and it's over. But
they actually called and say, hey, we see what you're doing.

(30:18):
We want to be in support whatever it will.

Speaker 2 (30:21):
That's a very nice organization.

Speaker 1 (30:23):
By the way, it was unbelievable.

Speaker 2 (30:25):
They've done so much for New York and the hospitality industry.

Speaker 1 (30:29):
So they forgave all my rent.

Speaker 2 (30:31):
Wow.

Speaker 1 (30:32):
And when I. At that point, we still didn't know
how long it would take to reopen, or how long
the pandemic would take. And when I put my creative
hat back on, I knew that I had changed, and
I knew that I had no interest in reopening the
same eleven Madison Park as before. And I felt the

(30:56):
responsibility because eleven Madison Park is this native platform we
push boundaries, and so in terms of creativity, I knew
that the world did not need another version on a
bother poach lobster, or on a steak, or on our
famous doc. But creativity had to go towards plant based eating.

Speaker 2 (31:23):
And so that's what you did. And I have tasted
this delicious food. It is. It is unusual. Yeah, it
is curious in many ways, and it does not disappoint.

Speaker 1 (31:33):
I mean, vegetables are so beautiful.

Speaker 2 (31:35):
I love vegetables that you can see you walk through
my vegetable bard. It's still productive, even almost almost November
as we as we speak.

Speaker 1 (31:44):
At first, we thought maybe this would be limiting because
we leave all these things behind that we were known
for and that we cooked for years. But when I
look back today, I feel like we were limited before.
I feel like before we were cooking seasonal condiments for
fish and meat, and today I feel like we create

(32:07):
the entire cuisine and what a main course could be.

Speaker 2 (32:11):
So what are some of the other vegetable dishes besides
the carrot tartoar? What else are you serving?

Speaker 1 (32:17):
Well, we started our own farm called Magic Farm in
upstate New York, in Husick, New York, which has allowed
us to you know, explore even deeper. So like, for example,
in the summer, we are cooking sunflower hearts, and in
factually we take the sunflowers, we harvest them right before

(32:37):
they open up, so they're almost like little artie chokes.
So we work with sunflowers. We have a vegetable that's
sort of like Chinese led us, but it's called cell
tows and I love the roots.

Speaker 2 (32:52):
The restaurant, that's right, and the menu was Celsius. Yes,
I think we had at least five courses with Celsius.
And the children kept looking at it and saying, is
this the same vegetable? It was very interesting. And Sulta's
is like the heart of a like an almost like
a heart of a big fat escroll in a way.

Speaker 1 (33:11):
Isn't it. Yeah? I think that's right. Yeah, I think
that's right. And it tastes a little bit like I
would say, it's a little bit between a cucumber and
the celery, but it has also this like beautiful taste
of yeaeah.

Speaker 2 (33:24):
So you've figured out how to cook that in many ways.

Speaker 1 (33:26):
But vegetables are really truly limitless, and especially here in
this region.

Speaker 2 (33:33):
Are you using a centrifuge with your vegetables too? Do
you use that? We don't use that because Nathan Mervill
taught me all about making like pea butter or carrot
butter in a in a centrifuge.

Speaker 1 (33:45):
Amazing.

Speaker 2 (33:46):
Yeah, you put peas in there and what is left
after it spins a you know, thousands of rotations a
second or you're left with the essence of the peas
it takes. It's like a butter because there's a lot
of fat in it.

Speaker 1 (34:00):
Yeah, of course, and.

Speaker 2 (34:01):
I bought one. I bought a centril future right away.
You should experience. Have you visited Nathan's food lamb I have.
It's so extreme, but I mean he's to him too.
Vegetables are limitless.

Speaker 1 (34:15):
Yeah, it's UNBELI it is.

Speaker 2 (34:17):
And that's the future. By the way, we have to know.

Speaker 1 (34:20):
It's so beautiful. It's also so much healthier. You know,
like even in the dining room before, it was like
the energy in the dining room it was like very
high as people were starting their meals, and then by
the time they got to the main course, it kind
of like crashed and everyone was sort of like ready
to roll out of the restaurant. And now the energy

(34:45):
the night goes on. It's unbelievable, how great. And I
don't know if it's maybe because of the fermented foods,
but it's also much more lighter, and people tell me
all the time, like people sleep so much better, they
feel so much healthier. I mean, it's it's it has
a lot of beautiful side effects beyond the delicious meal.

Speaker 2 (35:06):
My daughter is raising her kids as vegetarians. They eat
a little bit of fish, but very what monitored because
of the iodine poisoning and stuff. But you recommend it highly.

Speaker 1 (35:16):
Yeah.

Speaker 2 (35:17):
You know, as an athlete, how many athletes for vegetarians
these days?

Speaker 1 (35:20):
There are a lot of them. Yeah, the runners and runners,
endurance athletes in general. I mean there's football players, there's
tennis players, I mean all over.

Speaker 2 (35:31):
What kind of impact is the plant based emp having
across the whole industry, what do you think.

Speaker 1 (35:37):
You know? I do believe that doing this at the
highest level. I understand it's not the most accessible because
not everyone can eat at eleven mess in Park, but
I do believe we have an important role in those establishments,
sort of for leading the way. It's a little bit
like in fashion. It's like the things that you see

(35:57):
on a runway, you know, you end up seeing at
Sarah and H and M. And I think the same
is true in restaurants. I think it does influence. For me.
It was also about sort of like the luxury. I
think we need to value vegetables more. I think we
still have this perception that a piece of meat is

(36:19):
more valuable than a carrot or a celt to use.

Speaker 2 (36:23):
Well, it's getting to be more expensive, first of all,
and fish fish, I mean palab Now at my local
fish Longer is forty five dollars a pound. Who can
afford that?

Speaker 1 (36:35):
No, for me, this came as a reaction. I'm no
climate expert or food systems expert, but I'm an expert
in what I see coming to my kitchen in terms
of ingredients and mark I've seen such a dramatic change
of like ingredients have completely disappeared. Certain ingredients used to

(36:58):
be wild and other arm the way they taste has
changed a lot. I mean it's it's changing rapidly and
we need to find new ways. And in terms of cream.

Speaker 2 (37:11):
Do you miss any animal based products?

Speaker 1 (37:14):
I don't miss it at all.

Speaker 2 (37:15):
Isn't that great?

Speaker 1 (37:16):
I don't miss it at all. It's been so beautiful.
And you know this is not like and butter.

Speaker 2 (37:21):
Do you cook with butter?

Speaker 1 (37:22):
We make our own butter. We make a sunflour out
of sunflour oil. We make our own butter.

Speaker 2 (37:27):
What do you use for milk or cream we make?

Speaker 1 (37:30):
We use different not milks that we then ferment. You
make your own and so we make this beautiful fermented
almond milk that's unbelievable. We make our own cultured butter.
We make these beautiful stocks of all these different vegetables.

Speaker 2 (37:45):
I love vegetables stack.

Speaker 1 (37:47):
Yeah, it's so incredible.

Speaker 2 (37:48):
When I peel my vegetables, it all goes into a rich,
rich vegetable stuck. I don't miss I don't miss meat
either when I'm when I'm not eating it.

Speaker 1 (37:57):
In terms of climate, and we're not anti meat but
we are pro planet and in terms of for the
betterment of the climate, the single most powerful thing an
individual can do is to choose what's on your plate.
And even if you eat vegetables like one day a

(38:18):
week or two days a week, like, you don't need
to go from all to nothing. But we need to
adapt towards a more plant based diet. And you could
arrive there in many different ways, Like you could arrive
there for animal welfare, you could arrive there for farming practices,
you could arrive there for health, you could drive there

(38:42):
for climate. But the thing that you will not be
able to escape is that we're actually running out of resources.
There's a study that came out that I just read
that said eighty percent of the farmland in the world
is used for animal farms. It accounts for eleven percent

(39:03):
of the calories. It's actually not an effective way to
even feed the planet. In that same study, it's aid
by twenty fifty we will need three planets to feed.

Speaker 2 (39:16):
The animals, to feed the animals that feed.

Speaker 1 (39:18):
Up exactly, so we cannot continue to get it the
way we are. And the good news is vegetables are delicious, beautiful, healthier,
and I think that's what we're here for to do.

Speaker 2 (39:30):
Daniel had never come to my farm before. And you walk,
you walk by the chicken coops. I mean, I have
beautiful chickens. They lay beautiful eggs, beautiful. The feed is
atrociously expensive. It's very expensive. I value the eggs because
they eat all the spent vegetables in the garden. I
go to my vegetable market. Don't tell anybody, but I

(39:52):
get crates of trimmings of the cantalopes and the melons,
melons and watermelons for the chickens. And they love eating
all that. They love it, and it does make better
your eggs, right, But indeed, the cost of raising the
chickens does not pay for the money I could get
if I sold the eggs. It just doesn't know.

Speaker 1 (40:14):
And it's also, I mean, this is a very romantic
way of how you.

Speaker 2 (40:18):
Live up, very romantic, but difficult.

Speaker 1 (40:21):
The quantities we need, it all becomes industrial and it's
not realistic.

Speaker 2 (40:26):
And I can't visit a factory farm.

Speaker 1 (40:28):
I can't.

Speaker 2 (40:28):
I can't anymore. I've read all about it. Where did
you get your knowledge about it? Just by Do you
visit any of those factory farms.

Speaker 1 (40:34):
I have visited it some and you know, it's quite horrible,
and you don't even need to dig that deep, like
you see it very quickly, and it's really not something
you really want to in.

Speaker 2 (40:45):
New York State, you see it one percent.

Speaker 1 (40:47):
Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 2 (40:48):
And the cruelty of raising animals in that way too,
it's just horrific. I agree. And that's why, you know,
my diet has become less and less and less orientedreds
of meat products and much more to vegetable.

Speaker 1 (41:03):
You know, we read about the chickens have bird flu,
you know, that's the real thing. We read about the
plastic in the ocean, that is a real thing. We
read about the Amazon burning because of cows and land,
and we read about all the antibiotics that's in these animals.

(41:24):
And the truth is, even if you're a small restaurant,
let's say you need you have forty guests, and you
need forty chicken breasts, and that's a tiny restaurant, and
that is twenty chickens. And so just imagine, like if
a restaurant needs twenty chickens each day, now they need
over one hundred chicken a week, that already is no

(41:48):
more a small farm. No, So it's just not realistic.
This idealic idea of like this little farm with the
chicken coop is not a realistic one.

Speaker 2 (42:07):
What are you serving for Thanksgiving?

Speaker 1 (42:09):
This is another point. I think we have the opportunity
to change traditions. We can honor the old traditions and
still somehow have them with us, but traditions actually need
to evolve. And I know, I love Thanksgiving, It's one
of my favorite holidays. It's so beautiful.

Speaker 2 (42:29):
But are not squashes? Were looking really good.

Speaker 1 (42:31):
Isn't it. Why do we eat turkey? Like most people
do actually not know why do we eat turkey? Most
people don't even like turkey. Most turkey that's being served
is anyway overcooked, And so forty five million turkeys are
being slaughtered on Thanksgiving? Now just where are they? And

(42:52):
I haven't seen a farm with like this kind of
amounts of turkey. So I think we have the opportunity
to change traditions and like beautiful stuffed squash with stuffing
and like braced in the oven, and you can still
have all the cranberries and all the side dishes. And
that's what we're serving. That's what we're doing at the

(43:13):
eleven Mudson Park.

Speaker 2 (43:14):
Yeah, it's admirable and also different and also healthier, and
you are helping change tradition. You are. So you start
your farm, I have to come up and see your farm.
How many acres of vegetables are you growing?

Speaker 1 (43:29):
We farm on six acres. We have more acres, but
today we're farming on six acres. We have four greenhouses.
About sixty percent of all our vegetables are from our
own farm, and it's been incredible because we can influence
what vegetables we're growing. But then we also bring the
composts that we have in the restaurant goes back to

(43:50):
the farm, and so we created this kind of circular
system that's also much more sustainable. And it's been just
a beautiful path. And we're celebrating twenty five years of
the restaurant, but truthfully, I feel like we're at the
very beginning. And it's so special to have this excitement

(44:12):
for a restaurant that has been there twenty five years.
I mean, this restaurant has been my life, but today
I feel more excited about it than I have ever before.

Speaker 2 (44:23):
How many other vegan or vegetarian restaurants are there in
New York. Has the number increased over the last ten years?

Speaker 1 (44:29):
Would you say definitely? Definitely. I mean it's definitely sprouting out,
and there's new ones all the time. And I think,
you know, plant based cooking isn't isn't new. I think
there's a lot of other cultures that have been doing
this for many, many years. I mean I was just
in India, and of course India forty percent of the

(44:51):
population is vegetarian actually, and you know, of course other
Middle East only forty. Yeah, but it's a lot, I
mean in comparison to one percent in the US.

Speaker 2 (45:06):
Are we only one?

Speaker 1 (45:07):
Yeah? Yeah?

Speaker 2 (45:11):
What have you learned about cooking without animal products that
would surprise us?

Speaker 1 (45:16):
Well? I think one thing is that people always teach you,
or is being told, how much protein we actually need.
We actually don't need as much proteins as people tell us.
We actually need very little. And I think a lot
of the protein can come with plant based cooking, from
nuts and lentils and legumes and beans and so forth.

(45:38):
And with that, I would recommend we actually use most
nuts and most legumes that are all sprouted, because it's
much more healthier and your body takes it in much
more cooking plant based has also opened us up to
the entire world as we're studying different cuisines like the

(46:00):
sand Buddhist cuisine in Japan, or you know all the
Middle Eastern countries which have this amazing, amazing, amazing cuisine India.
I was saying, but but in a way, I feel
much more free and much more opened to the world.
It has also completely changed the audience that comes to

(46:22):
a restaurant. Our audience is much younger today, Our audience
is much more diverse. Our audience is much more thoughtful
about the planet and not just about the indulgence of
a of a luxurious meal.

Speaker 2 (46:37):
So you have a restaurant in Las Vegas that we
have that in common. I have a restaurant in Las Vegas.

Speaker 1 (46:41):
Yeah, we had the Nomads and but actually right before
the pandemic we were able to sell it and and
we ended that.

Speaker 2 (46:49):
Because it was a beautiful restaurant.

Speaker 1 (46:51):
I loved it. It was great.

Speaker 2 (46:52):
I love the library feeling that in that restaurant. Yeah,
the chef character in the TV showed the bear, did
he really work and living as park?

Speaker 1 (47:01):
No, he never worked at eleven Madison Park. But you
know what, I actually just recently watched the show, and
I think it's so well done, and I think the
acting in it is really unbelievable. There's second the first
episode in the first season, in like one of the latest.

Speaker 2 (47:19):
Seasons, that restaurant drove me crazy. It was so dirty
that restaurant.

Speaker 1 (47:25):
But there is this monologue scene where he speaks about
all the pain and the creativity that comes from that,
and I think that definitely kind of hit home. I
think the show is super well done and there's definitely
a lot of references on eleven Madison Park.

Speaker 2 (47:43):
Well, what's your favorite part of running a restaurant and
what's your least favorite?

Speaker 1 (47:49):
My favorite part about running a restaurant is all the
people that we get to be around, the people I
get to work with every single day. Like the creativity.
We get to do something creatively and collaboratively, and then
we get to share that with all the beautiful people
that come to experience it. I think there's so much

(48:13):
life in that and there's such a beauty in that.
I think that would be my favorite part.

Speaker 2 (48:17):
Can you reproduce eleven Madison Park the Vegan Restaurant elsewhere?

Speaker 1 (48:22):
You know? I think we definitely want to bring plant
based eating into the world more than just with eleven
Madison Park. Eleven Madison Park, there's only one in the world,
and there will always only be one in the world.
I think it is so special and we really have
to protect it for what that is. It cannot be replicated,
in my opinion, but there's definitely ways of, like, you know,

(48:45):
creating a more casual version of a plant based restaurant
that is definitely interesting to me.

Speaker 2 (48:52):
Well, this has been such an interesting conversation. I've learned
a lot. I'm sure our listeners are just they can't
wait to try your food, and I thank you, Martha.
I think they can't wait to learn more about plant
based eating. Yeah, and cooking, and you can get chef
Whom's new book, Eat More Plants describe the book for everyone.

Speaker 1 (49:14):
So Eat More Plants was in a way never really
meant to be a book. But I journal, and I
draw and I paint, and during the pandemic I did
a lot of that and it was all around my
ideas about reopening plant based restaurants and about painting and
drawing vegetables and sort of like really seeing this come

(49:36):
to life. And this is how my creative process works,
and I got to meet this incredible publisher called Gerhartstitle
who has published some of the greatest art books like
Ed Rushe or Richard Sarah or Joseph Boyce or Ronnie Horn.
And one day he came to the restaurant and he

(49:58):
was very touched by the meal, and he asked me,
what is my creative process? And I told them, well,
I journal, I draw, I write, And then he asked
me if he could see those drawings and journals, and
he came the next day to my office and he
looked at everything and he said, I would love to

(50:18):
publish a book on those. And it was a very
vulnerable thing because none of the they're very intimate, and
none of this was created to be ever seen by anyone,
and so that was like a process, you know, to
get there. But then I've spent a few weeks with
Gerhardt in Gutting and Germany to create this book that

(50:40):
today I'm very proud of, and it's a very intimate
look into my creative process and the reimagination of Eleven Matterson.

Speaker 2 (50:48):
I'd like to read this one little sentence. What the
pandemic has taught me is that purpose brings happiness. Winning
awards is important, but it's not everything, and that's seems
to be what you're living by right now. I mean,
it's just incredible, and page after page in this beautiful book,
I could frame almost every single one of these and

(51:10):
have a wall of your art. This is very interesting
and beautiful.

Speaker 1 (51:14):
Thank you so much.

Speaker 2 (51:16):
We have a unique platform at eleven Madison Park. It
comes with a responsibility, so your philosophy is here and
you must try very hard to visit eleven Madison Park
when you're in New York City. Call far ahead for
reservations and bring a fat pocket book because it's expensive.

(51:37):
But I think you will enjoy the atmosphere, you will
enjoy the service, and most of all, you will enjoy
a plant based meal the likes of which you have
never tasted. So thank you Chevulm. It's so nice to
have you here.

Speaker 1 (51:49):
Thank you so much. Marta, what a pleasure. Thank you,
thank you,
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