Its award-winning and the opulent menu is traditionally heavy on meat and dairy, with dishes like butter-poached lobster tails and celery roots in pig’s bladder among the highlights. However, the restaurant stated in the spring that it would reopen with a vegan menu. Other well-known restaurants have gone vegan, including Michelin-starred French chef Alexis Gauthier, who transformed his meals and lifestyle.
Meat-free options aren’t limited to high-end establishments. Burger King and White Castle have both included vegan meat options on their menus in recent years. Although it may appear that the American diet is moving toward veganism or vegetarianism, there is still a long way to go until a major section of the population is wholly devoted to plant-based meals.
According to a 2018 survey, the average American consumes more than 200 pounds of beef per year. According to the BBC, despite a growing genre of meat replacements and lots of information and media on making the switch, meat consumption has continued to rise globally over the last 50 years. Moreover, as the economies of poorer countries improve, citizens in those countries have more purchasing power, allowing them to buy more beef and chicken, boosting meat demand despite even the most persuasive vegan patties hitting the market.
One question has persisted for as long as vegan and vegetarian options have existed. How does a restaurant, no matter how posh or casual, persuade even the most adamant carnivores to sample vegan options? Getting people to try new things appears to be a science and a process. To encourage omnivore patrons to like a vegan menu, John Hayes, a professor of food science at Penn State University and the head of the Sensory Evaluation Center, said that it would require a mixture of culinary tactics.
“It has to be innovative enough to be fascinating and familiar enough not to scare people away from trying it,” he said. “Food is an adventure.”
Other examples of market-changing to bring in as many clients as feasible are noted by Hayes. Take, for example, the profusion of gluten-free products. At first, people with celiac disease or other autoimmune disorders stuck with grocery lists full of items that either “didn’t exist or were terrible.” However, as the market increased, firms developed better goods for all types of consumers to enjoy, swaying even the most gluten-averse among us. In addition, he sees the rise in popularity of meals like Nashville hot chicken sandwiches as an example of a familiar dish with a new twist—using classic food to introduce new flavors.
“It’s not too strange for them to step out of their comfort zone; it’s spicy, juicy, and crispy, but at the end of the day, it’s a chicken sandwich,” he explained. “Everyone, even high-end dining, has to catch up [to cuisine trends].”
He believes that if Eleven Madison Avenue can make vegan meals with “meaty” textures and gratifying savoriness, meat-eating customers will find the right blend of familiar and innovative to enjoy the restaurant’s new vegan menu. But, of course, experimenting, comparing, and finding novel ways to extract flavor without using animal meat or fat will be necessary.
“They require umami or heartiness. It’s referred to as an Asian flavor when it isn’t and found in a variety of foods,” Hayes explained. “It appeals to those who are accustomed to eating animals.”
However, producing menus and dishes that replicate animal components and deliver the sensory experience required to appreciate a dish entirely is a challenge. According to Hayes, an increasing number of restaurants and food corporations are collaborating with culinary researchers and scientists to find the ideal mixture. Chef Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park agreed that being vegan will alter the cooking process because the new menu would have to meet the same high standards as the old. The cost of ingredients would decrease, but the cost of manufacturing the dish would rise.