Eleven Madison Park – New York, NY
Pre-disclaimer: At the risk of making it seem like this blog is only about restaurants granted three Michelin stars, this blog completes a hat trick of three-star restaurants. Three posts for three stars, I guess? I promise I'll loop you in on more down-to-earth food as well. Stick with me, Maestro fans!
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Pete Wells infamously handed exactly zero stars to Eleven Madison Park in his scathing New York Times review of the revered Manhattan restaurant's new vegan menu in 2021. Ryan Sutton of Eater offered a slightly more generous, but still brutal take on his experience with the new plant-based cooking. Indeed, a seemingly unanimous chorus of critics found themselves wildly underwhelmed by much of the menu, made worse by followup allegations of food waste and poor working conditions.
Chef Daniel Humm was flying at the highest altitudes of fine dining before the pandemic. His Eleven Madison Park was the first restaurant in America to top the "Top 50 in the World" list. He'd collected three Michelin stars and a coveted four stars from the Times. It was impossible to get a reservation. And then, in 2021, he shocked the food world when he announced that EMP would reopen after the pandemic with an entirely plant-based, vegan menu. Though Humm is not vegan, he claims to practice vegetarianism for sustainability reasons, and his decision to move EMP to veganism was a move toward sustainability, to "redefine luxury as an experience that serves a higher purpose and maintains a real connection to the community."
While "luxury" having any manner of "connection to the community" is laughable on its face, particularly when proffered in a caption underneath an Instagram post featuring a kneeling celebrity chef examining soil in a Prada jacket, Humm is largely correct about the environmental harm of animal product–based diets––commercial meat-based foodways suffer from some very serious sustainability concerns, and moreover some have predicted that in a matter of decades, we will be looking back on animal consumption as an at best ethically dubious practice the same way we have evolved on so many issues of social justice and morality over the years.
But it seemed Humm's prediction––that the stature of this restaurant in the world of fine dining would afford a platform for plant-based dining that could change the world––was at least initially a woeful misfire. As Sutton put it, Humm didn't "yet appear to fully possess the palate, acumen, or cultural awareness to successfully manipulate vegetables or, when necessary, to let them speak for themselves." Sutton continued that a certain tortured beet course "cooked 18-ways tasted like pretty much any other beet, a reality that’s tough to digest when you have to put down a massive non-refundable deposit to find that out." Wells was far less charitable about said beet, remarking that it "tastes like Lemon Pledge and smells like a burning joint."
Still, a year and change after the big shift at EMP, in the face of all the negative press, in its most recent guide Michelin maintained its three-star rating for Humm and his vegan temple––the guide praised Humm’s "zealous dedication to masterful precision" and called his food "a bold vision of luxury dining," peppering in accolades for individual dishes: "The freshly baked, delicately crisped vegan roll presented with faux butter is a magical creation;" or, "A quenelle of tonburi, mimicking caviar, plated with horseradish cream and accompanied by a radish tostada with a swipe of pumpkin seed butter is simply stunning." Even Wells in his infamous pan praised some dishes as "unqualified success[es]," and Sutton found himself blown away by the complexity of some of the offerings, like an eggplant dish featuring "a vegetable that somehow mimics the luscious textures of tuna confit."
Some seem to be cautiously optimistic that everything that went wrong amounted mostly to growing pains, and that things might be looking up for EMP. Humm himself has admitted that he may have bitten off more than he could chew at first, citing difficulty navigating otherwise mostly uncharted waters in luxury dining. Indeed, a recent report from another critic claimed that the restaurant was "blossoming" after their "rough patch." Chef reportedly used to tell his staff that the moon landing was ridiculed by many as well, but was vindicated in the lens of history. Could that be true with his vision for fine dining two years later?
Eleven Madison Park was once the highest restaurant on my bucket list, but the stars never aligned for me to dine there; however, after the vegan shift, and the humorous but poignant reviews from Wells, Sutton, and others, I had written the place off. In fact, when seeking tables in the Big Apple for an upcoming jaunt, I'd completely forgotten about EMP until undertaking a quick Google search to remind me of the best restaurants in the city.
But I saw a blurb somewhere that the restaurant is celebrating its 25th anniversary this October, and in honor they would be featuring a special menu reflecting on some of their most celebrated dishes from the past. While I was at first hopeful that meant they'd be bringing meat, dairy, and fish back for a month, it seems instead that this menu is a rethinking of these courses in their new plant-based idiom, "continuing our plant-based mission with the reimagination of some of our most iconic dishes."
Reservations have been much easier to come by, which would normally arouse suspicion, but with the encouraging indications I'd read about, the special menu, and my desire to experience this with an open mind (and tell a good story to both of my loyal readers!), I nabbed a spot for one for my sole dinner in Manhattan on this trip.
Eleven Madison Park is known for paying homage its New York home, and the building in particular is quintessentially New York. Just across the road from Madison Square Park, the space screams 1920s, with classic Art Deco finishes, some original to the building. With soaring ceilings, spectacular florals, and thoughtful touches, this is perhaps the most beautiful dining room I’ve occupied, and its ornaments left no doubt of the city that it calls home.
Indeed, back in 2012, one of the most celebrated menus EMP deployed took iconic New York bites and elevated them. As anyone who has a deep reservoir of Seinfeld knowledge, the “black and white cookie” is one such delight. Of course a vegan version, the tiny delicate cookie presented in a gift box on the table was a fantastic, if slightly odd, mélange of sesame and apple. “And yet somehow racial harmony eludes us,” Seinfeld quips as he chows down on one. “If people would only look to the cookie, all our problems would be solved!" Unfortunately, Seinfeld also seemed to be the inspiration for the rather angular jazz track played in the dining room throughout the meal.
The bar program at EMP is superb, and keeping with the celebration of their 25th anniversary, I swiftly ordered one of their legendary Manhattans. Consistent with their penchant for the showmanship of tableside presentations, their "Manhattan cart" was wheeled over by a rad member of the bar staff, who prepared my tipple and engaged me in delightful conversation. The Manhattan was certainly the best I’d had, with the spice of rye whiskey and tang of vermouth balanced beautifully.
The pendant lights in the dining room with a sharp hexagonal shape and zig-zag ornaments are original to the 1920s building, and EMP was inspired by these to create a stackable, or rather unstackable, presentation of canapés.
The first was a classic Waldorf salad, a New York original from the late 1800s, made with the classic apple, grape, celery, and red onion, but also pumpkin milk–based blue cheese. Immensely successful. The second was less successful––parsnip cream and apple caramel accompanied compressed apple slices for dipping alongside puffed amaranth. This was fine, but not distinct enough from other apples dipped in caramel I’ve had in my life to be particularly interesting.
A beguiling tartlette of black truffle and parsnip with fried thyme lacked some manner of weight, but was tasty enough; meanwhile, a maitake mushroom arancini with a very thin apple slice and parsley “aioli” had a wonderful crisp and stayed warm (even hot) on heated rocks, but suffered from a similar lack of depth. While the umami of the fungi was present, there just was something missing on the palate, which would be a theme of many dishes going forward.
I had sprung for the reserve wine pairing, and a sommelier brought a baseball bat of Riesling to start––magnums of German Rieslings in their thin, tapered bottles resemble something designed to hit a wiffle ball. Prum is an institution of Riesling production in the Mosel, and this single vineyard Kabinett expression with lower residual sugar offered bright green orchard fruits and just a scintilla of the glorious funk Riesling can have. A food wine, indeed.
For the 2012 “New York” menu, Humm sought a take on a steak tartare, a staple of the city’s steakhouse scene. After playing with many different proteins that never quite hit the spot, he landed on carrots, and created a milestone dish for the restaurant in the process. Fortunately, a carrot tartare is very easy to turn into a fully vegan offering. Again I was offered a bit of a show with this dish––a meat grinder was attached to my table and an adorable and amiable cook brought cooked carrots and a board covered with little condiments, including sunflower seed, dehydrated carrot, chives, mustard seed, and an apple mustard, as well as a Japanese mustard oil and carrot-jalapeño sauce in squeeze bottles.
The carrot was ground to the stalks and the resulting tartare gracefully spooned into the large divot on the left side of the plate while the cook and I nerded out about food, and I was instructed to mix the ingredients to taste. I put pretty much everything into the tartare for maximum flavor.
After mixing the tartare, I found myself a bit underwhelmed by the flavor until I realized midway through that the apple mustard, which had the same color as the little ramekin it inhabited, had been neglected! That ended up being the key to the dish, with the pungency of mustard seed combined with a glorious green apple acidity that lifted what before felt like a bit of an anemic tartare.
They say that Italy has almost countless grape varieties, so even for a wine dweeb like me, it’d be nearly impossible to wrap your head around or come to know all of them. Timorasso was new to me, and Vigneti Massa, helmed by winemaker Walter Massa, is largely responsible for bringing the grape back from obscurity, and we should be thrilled he did. This full-bodied white possessed fascinating depth and concentration and heady aromatics, with a honeyed palate that still managed to sing with youthful acidity. It would prove to be a very successful companion to the bites that followed.
Of all the creations that came out of EMPs newly vegan kitchen two years ago, none has met the critical acclaim of the laminated roll and sunflower butter. Their croissant-like laminated roll was a staple of the menu, but it was the butter that gave it richness and paper-thin texture. Pasty Chef Laura Cronin’s team managed to replicated the texture and flavor by making a “milk” of sunflower seeds and culturing them just like butter. The resulting sunflower butter is used not just to make the roll, but also served alongside in an impossibly beautiful Art Deco sunflower capped with a dark center of sunflower glaze. Easily the best thing I ate all night, and maybe all year, and without a doubt the greatest vegan creation I have sampled. It took all of two minutes to devour one and have another brought forth without my asking.
Another of the stars of the new foray into a plant-based menu is EMP’s take on caviar. Tonburi is a seed of the Japanese cypress that Humm sources from a single producer in Japan. While it resembles sturgeon roe in appearance, in its unadulterated form it can taste vegetal and broccoli-like, but Humm’s team ages the tonburi in kelp to approximate the brine of caviar. Served in an avocado atop a cucumber salad and a glorious sauce made of aromatic, pungent herbs like sorrel and mint, the tonburi successfully suggested the essence of the sea, while the rich avocado and wonderfully fresh herb sauce displayed a remarkable interplay of opposites. Certainly an inspired course, though I am spoiled for pristine avocados in California and this particular one was slightly off-target.
Chablis in the northern reaches of Burgundy produces a style of chardonnay quite unlike many others in France, driven by brighter flavors of citrus, apples, and minerals and often treated with a gentler oak profile. Montee de Tonnerre, a première cru spot widely considered a benchmark for Chablis, gets a bit of a heftier treatment from Domaine Vocoret & Fils, which would serve the next course well by matching the gravity of truffles and providing a counterpoint of bright fruits.
I was thrilled to see white truffles on the next plate, my first of the season. Tortelloni sat atop a purée of sweet, rich chestnuts and the waitstaff spooned a mouthwatering foam of white truffle and chestnut atop. Unfortunately, the pasta housed an acrid almond ricotta that unceremoniously sliced right through the magnificence of the sauce. I’ve never had a good vegan cheese; instead of trying to mimic ricotta, I was perplexed why they wouldn’t choose to fill the pasta with a vegetable purée of some type, like truffle-scented cauliflower. Instead, the almond milk cheese tasted processed and strange, and easily overpowered the more beautiful flavors of truffle and chestnut. A real shame.
Fortunately, things went up dramatically from here. The transition to red wine began with a 2009 nebbiolo from Valtellina, an appellation tucked into the pre-Alps in Lombardy northeast of Milan. Arpepe sustainably sources this interesting nebbiolo from a fantastic vineyard in the “Inferno” sub-region––the wine had a clean, light body with plenty of fresh alpine herbs that would prove to be perfect with the next course’s main ingredient.
And that ingredient was celery root. A sphere of braised celery root sat alongside a purée of celery root concealing a bit of black truffle beneath, and the braised ball was drizzled in a wonderful sherry and black truffle sauce. Much of the celery root I’ve had in the past involved addition of a dairy product for creaminess, but the plant-only cooking of this celeriac allowed the natural vegetal nature of the root vegetable to shine, while the truffle added a lovely gravity for counterpoint. The purée, in particular, was mind-blowing. Back on track!
The next wine was special––nebbiolo from Barbaresco, vintage 1998, the same year Eleven Madison Park opened. Pelissero is a classic producer of Barbaresco, and the tannin and characteristic bright bing cherry of the varietal had settled over time to earthy secondary flavors and a velvety smooth palate. Spectacular selection, but I’m a bit puzzled why they’d choose two nebbiolos on the same pairing slate, especially back-to-back.
A massive apparatus resembling a domed tagine was wheeled to the table, inside which was smoking over juniper a maple-glazed skewer of maitake mushrooms slices and seitan. After a few moments, a server removed the dome, the coniferous smoke wafting toward the table, and pushed the contents of the skewer off onto a plate and dusted it with a pine and juniper powder. Also on the plate was a silky mound of maitake purée and thinly sliced mushrooms.
The server commented that this was the dish that made lovers of meat “say they didn’t miss meat on the menu because this tastes so much like it.” Not sure I agree, but it did have a suggestion of beefy umami, with a char and caramelization that paired well with the nebbiolo. But I’d endeavor to say it tasted less like meat and more like somewhat tortured mushrooms.
A dessert wine swiftly followed the clearing of the final savory selection––vin santo from Chianti, a wonderfully sweet expression of trebbiano and malvasia with delightful caramelized, nutty notes contrasted by lively acidity. I was a bit perplexed when a neighboring table, who had ordered the standard pairing, was served the same wine for dessert, and upon perusing the menu they gave me at the end of the meal, it seems the reserve pairing does, indeed, receive an entirely different wine, and the somm poured me the wrong one. A sort of strange oversight for a restaurant in this echelon.
The dessert, however, had absolutely no oversights. I’m not sure it had a flaw. A donut was filled with minced apples and dusted with a fabulous salty cinnamon dust, with a vegan cinnamon ice cream atop shortbread crumble alongside. Pastry Chef Laura Cronin and her team seem to have not missed a single step in the vegan transition––the most salient standouts of the meal all came from that side of the kitchen. This was her first dessert, albeit not in vegan form, when she started at EMP ten years ago. I’ll have dreams about this donut, and nightmares about when the plate was cleared.
Four chocolate bars came out next, each wrapped with paper sporting one of the four leaves that form EMP’s logo. A card listing four different alternative milks, coconut, rice, hemp, and pumpkin, accompanied, and I was instructed to play “a little game” and taste all four chocolates, drawing a line between which milk I thought formed each chocolate. A cheat sheet was also supplied should I become flummoxed.
I nailed the coconut right away, and being a notorious consumer of marijuana, the hemp milk chocolate didn’t take me too much longer to isolate. The rice and pumpkin milk, though, were much more challenging, and though I kind of rushed to look at the cheat sheet, I mixed them up for a score of two-for-four. After I knew the answers, the pumpkin milk seemed much clearer to me, which was probably confirmation bias, but I found myself grumpy that I didn’t take more time. Still, the waitstaff told me I was the highest scorer that night, which was surprising!
Because the slate of beverage pairings had concluded, I decided to make use of the absurdly talented bar staff again by requesting a digestif cocktail, bartender’s choice. But before it reached my table, a new member of the team came to speak with me and to my delight offered me a tour of the kitchen.
I’d heard the kitchen tour is a must-do at EMP, and I was of course giddy to get a look at the action. My tour guide and I exchanged food philosophies and stories, and she prepared for me a fizzy, creamy dessert cocktail popularized in Brooklyn decades ago, the constitution of which currently escapes me.
When I returned to my table, one of EMP’s signature pretzel-shaped confections was hanging on what looked like a paper towel holder. Like an adult version of a peanut butter cup, the sesame and chocolate pretzel had a lovely saline element that closed the meal quite successfully. Alongside, I was served a chilled glass of house-made vermouth, and my cocktail, made with gin, yellow Chartreuse, and pear, was also waiting for me, and was a fantastic way to wrap things up.
A nearly five-hour meal finally came to a close, and I made my way, sleepily, to the corner of 23rd and Madison to catch an Uber back to JFK and have a rest at the TWA Hotel in advance of my early flight back to California. On the 45 minute ride, I attempted to untangle what conclusions, however conflicting, I was formulating from my meal at Eleven Madison Park. And conflicted I still find myself.
On one hand, there were a handful of preparations very much worthy of the caliber of the restaurant, such as the laminated roll and sunflower butter, the celery root purée, and, wonderfully, the simple Waldorf salad. These are wildly creative and delicious. And the donut, one of the best desserts I’ve ever had, stuck in my brain for some time, and as I write this, my mouth waters for that salty-sweet treat.
Moreover, despite my initial skepticism, I do understand the valiance of Humm’s approach. He’s using the restaurant’s status to reimagine the potential of fine dining. Plant-dominant foodways are probably the future of our sustenance (though I am not sure strict veganism is the inevitable conclusion), and Humm took a rather brave step completely transforming one of the finest kitchens in the world to imagine this future in the fine dining sphere. And even when things went poorly at first, and he’d realized he might have bitten off more than he could chew, he’s persisted and worked to improve the menu. I found very little as objectionable as Pete Wells and Ryan Sutton suggested in their reviews, which indicates to me that things are, indeed, turning around a bit here as they continue to elevate their approach.
But here’s the conflict, which I’ve been able to condense to a few philosophical points.
Let’s start with the most superficial: It is ridiculous––ridiculous––that this menu costs this much; it’s more dear than the most expensive of EMP’s menus when they were serving luxury animal-based ingredients that cost the restaurant exponentially more money. The most pristine celery root in the world, especially when it’s presented as spheres an inch in diameter, is spades less expensive than the same portion of lobster, or duck, or caviar, usual suspects on EMP's old menus, and yet this menu is more expensive than ever. The restaurant claims they feed five New Yorkers with every tasting menu purchased, which is of course admirable, but doesn’t really comfort the sting of ending a meal not feeling like you remotely got what you paid for.
Moreover, the plant-based ingredients they’re using that could be more worthy of this price tag are often instead cheaper counterparts––look no further than the maitake mushrooms of the final savory course, which might be more tasty and expensive than a portobello, but command a much lower price than more prized and flavorful fungi like matsutakes (which are in season right now and would love that pine powder and juniper smoke), porcinis, or chanterelles. If you’re trying to go for luxury applications of plant-based dining, why not spring for actual luxury ingredients, especially for these prices at which diners expect such luxury? Additionally, the most expensive of the ingredients they used, white truffles, were presented in such small quantities it was almost laughable––just two thin slices of the tuber topped the tortellini, and the sauce certainly didn't require serious amounts of truffle to create.
It makes the whole evening feel a bit like a grift. There are far fewer courses than at, say, Benu, with still fewer ingredients that could be called luxury, and the menu is the same price. I don’t know if Humm is trying to cut costs because bookings have plummeted since he went for this new approach (even though the dining room ended up being full) or because margins are generally much thinner for restaurants post-pandemic, but I'm suspicious. Along with recent allegations of poor pay for staff, the lack of more expensive plant-based ingredients may instead betray a parsimoniousness inconsistent with a restaurant of this caliber.
But my broader ambivalence takes issue with some of the core philosophies of the new approach. I have always found strange the desire to make plants mimic animal products. As Pete Wells wrote in his NYT review, “Beets aren’t very good at pretending to be meat, but their ability to taste like beets is unrivaled.” It’s precisely this that is most vexing to me about many fine dining restaurants that are trying to elevate plant-based fare, be it Dan Barber’s root vegetable steak replacements or Humm’s almond ricotta.
What is wrong with plants tasting like plants? Plants are wonderful, and pristine produce tastes better than just about anything on the planet. I pulled a perfect cherry tomato from my rather amateur garden the other day and nearly fainted––it was so impossibly good. Daniel Humm’s farms are, ostensibly, producing some of the finest vegetables in the world. Why does he feel so keen to alter them so as to not taste like themselves?
This is not true of all of these dishes, of course––the celery root definitely tasted of celery root, for example, and the herbaceous mint and sorrel sauce tasted vibrant and burst forth with the essence of the herbs. But the tonburi, as tasty as it might be, isn’t anywhere close to caviar. Inexpensive maitake mushrooms tortured with umami-granting condiments and soy protein are poor imitators of a beef skewer.
But the most offensive ingredient on the menu is doubtless the almond ricotta. Vegan cheeses are processed and scientifically tinkered with to oblivion. Much like Impossible or Beyond burgers, all of this fucking around with plant materials, isolating their proteins or oils or whatever compound might make them taste more like animal products, further removes our food from its unadulterated source. And it tastes that way, too. We’ve been told all our lives to avoid processed foods for sustainability and health, and yet some of the same people that trumpet that narrative now contradict it. We should all be suspicious of any practice that removes a plant further from its soil.
To be clear, I don’t know how Humm’s almond ricotta is made. It might be (and probably is) the purest manifestation imaginable. But the tortelloni tastes terrible. Why not fill it, as suggested earlier, with a cauliflower purée which harnesses the innate creaminess of the vegetable and enhance it with essence of the white truffles ornamenting the pasta, or perhaps incorporate the lovely chestnut purée on the bottom into the folds of the dough instead?
If the goal is really to champion plant-based diets, it seems to me we should be championing, well, plants, and not just scratching our ingrained itch for meat-like flavors. Changing food habits requires retraining the expectations and desires of the palate. If you want to switch to a plant-based diet, you gotta learn to enjoy plants.
Objecting to the consumption of animal flesh or products for ethical reasons related to the treatment of those animals is at least an ethos that could underpin a vegan menu. But as far as anyone can tell, those aren’t Humm’s values––he made this change for sustainability reasons.
Meanwhile, some animal products are among the most sustainable things you can possibly eat. Fishing of certain wild seafood populations, like Pacific cod, is far less taxing on the environment than conversion of forests to farmland for vegetables, or using water-thirsty almonds to make mock cheese. In fact, some seafood populations, like sea urchins in southern California, are too plentiful and are exerting pressures on ocean ecosystems. Humm including purple sea urchin in his menus would directly assist, even in small ways, the destruction of kelp forests, a critical pillar of shallow ocean environments, by simply removing urchins that destroy kelp holdfasts. Certain land animals, like wild deer, also unbalance their environments with overpopulation, particularly as climates change. And if Humm is right that the stature of his restaurant can cause a wave of attention toward certain ingredients, the dent he can make by using those ingredients may be profound.
But also, as others have pointed out, Humm wasn't sourcing from unsustainable factory farms when he was serving a non-vegan menu. He was accessing the most wonderful animal products and proteins imaginable from local small farms who do their work with remarkable integrity in ways that minimize their footprints. As Pete Wells wrote rather poignantly, if every restaurant sourcing from such small farms switched to Humm's model, these producers would disappear, leaving only the factory farms in their wake.
I find sustainability a formidable value, if not the most important in food. But there's a disconnect between values and praxis here. Plant-based foodways might be more sustainable than our rather meaty general food culture, but if sustainability is the goal, it seems to me that EMP could deploy a lot more nuance and creativity by sourcing animal-based ingredients that have less effect on the environment or actually help it relative to farming, like the aforementioned urchins or certain invasive river fish. Moreover, some plant-based ingredients he's using, like almonds, are resource hogs and are lightyears from sustainable. There also seems to be a dearth of emphasis on wild foods, plant or animal, some of which are arguably the most sustainable things we can eat.
A menu doesn't need to be plant-based to be sustainable, but it does need to be plant-based to be vegan. So, which is it? Talking with the staff revealed a fantastic and profound interest in the sustainability of their approach across every position; those are the admirable values at play here. Plant based–only dining seems a shortsighted and shallow way to execute them, and if they'd instead maintained just some animal products and dug deep to find those that are sustainably sourced, I can nearly guarantee EMP would not have experienced the fall from grace that it did, and in fact likely would have had a tremendous boost in business due to their innovative and thoughtful sourcing––that kind of stuff is all the rage right now, and every ingredient would have a story to tell.
None of the philosophical diatribe above should be interpreted as an indictment of my personal experience at Eleven Madison Park. From the perspective of a special dinner, this was a very enjoyable meal. Some of the food was superlative; some less so. I'd challenge the maintaining of three Michelin stars, and I doubt I'll be back to eat plants at these prices, but I'd still endeavor to say this place has kept a lot of what makes it special. There were some bites, particularly from the pastry team, that were mind boggling. The service, while occasionally sluggish, was worthy of the restaurant's stature. The wine program offered some outrageously excellent selections. And the bar staff numbers among the most talented in the city.
Eleven Madison Park does, indeed, have an opportunity to point the way toward a more sustainable model of fine dining. It just seems to me it's trying to do so with a sledgehammer and not a scalpel. The kitchen staff certainly has the talent, and the entire operation the passion, to make a difference. But from this lowly blogger's perspective, a difference-making approach would align precisely parallel with their values––sustainability––rather than cudgeling forth with all-vegan offerings. That's how you change the world: relentless pursuit of your values in ways that are simultaneously congruent with them and wildly creative. EMP isn't there yet.