posted September 14, 2021

by Nivi Jaswal, MVLCE

Image credit: The Virsa Foundation Inc

If my self-worth was a jacket, it would be made of lambskin lined with merino wool, trimmed with mink, a carnist pincushion with rebellious flairs, patches and badges screaming Airline Lounge Nomad, Serial Passport Killer, Michelin Star Hound, Steakhouse Rat, Caviar Hunter, Keto Samurai, Bullet Coffee Addict, Single Malt Chick…finished with an exquisite brooch studded with Tahitian pearls and an Indian Banarasi silk scarf.

This was before I connected the dots and fled the animal industrial complex.

The animal industrial complex is sinister—run by carnist ego—myopic, diabetic, ketogenic, and constantly hangry! I paraphrase from that famous Eagles song, “They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast,” and “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!”

Image credit: Salina Shah

As a relatively newly minted vegan, I am going through that painful—yet necessary—process of removing those passionately curated, hard-earned identity badges. It’s a transition that feels somewhat like a bad skin peel. I’m simultaneously living in two divergent worlds, wondering if there’s a parallel universe somewhere that honors compassion and health, and challenges the bloodied institutions that epitomize business entertainment. It’s easy to imagine being a corporate vegan as very isolating. But what’s lonelier is being ex-corporate, ex-keto, running an intersectional vegan nonprofit and re-designing my self-worth as I jump off the corporate cliff.

I’m reminded of a prescient blog I co-authored with Salina Shah, a former executive, on the Ethical New Normal that awaits corporate America. And in another write-up, Salina recounts her experience at a Brazilian steakhouse, “As the evening went on, the waiters circled dozens of times, and I realized that this was an “all-you-can-eat” method of serving cuts of meat.

Image credit: Krista Leoncavallo

Krista Leoncavallo is a leader on enterprise culture and change management in one of the largest healthcare companies in the United States. Being whole food plant-based, she is constantly navigating the corporate maze and relentlessly trying to usher in plant-powered change. And Krista is right, we can no longer ignore the evidence at the heart of healthcare issues in this country. Change is afoot and it’s only going to get bigger. The pandemic has created tragedy and travesty. It has also made plant-powered voices bolder.

The most famous three-Michelin-star restaurant in the world, Eleven Madison Park, is cooking up a vegan, plant-based storm in their completely renovated kitchen. No other white tablecloth restaurant of the same caliber in New York City serves a menu that’s completely free free of animal products, save the option for cow’s milk in a signature coffee drink.

Image credit: The Virsa Foundation Inc

The tour started with the very first step into the restaurant. Literally. I was told by the proud usher that the step was cast from the melted-down remains of the old kitchen, symbolic of how this establishment has pivoted during the pandemic by manifesting a sustainable, planet-compassionate, vegan future.

Every single offering in this eleven-course food theater was meticulously crafted with no aspiration to mimic animal-based tropes that dominate fine dining culinary philosophy. As a Lifestyle Medicine coach who ethically identifies as a vegan and nutritionally prefers a whole food plant-based approach, I was delighted to find that the entire menu unapologetically celebrates plants. There was no effort to placate the so-called flexitarian junta with faux meat and claims of burgers that “bleed like meat.”

Image credit: The Virsa Foundation Inc

An exclusive kitchen tour revealed a garden filled with flowerpots—these were for the Beets Course. I wondered to myself what expensive steakhouse kitchens might  look like? It’s the same logic as showing happy cows, pigs, and chickens on the packaging and having iron clad Ag-gag laws that protect slaughterhouses.

This culinary extravaganza lasted nearly four hours, ending with the most thoughtful present—a handmade card with the Eleven Madison Park logo on it, an ode to JIVINITI’s commitment towards “Connecting the Dots.”

Image credit: The Virsa Foundation Inc

The next time there’s a corporate dinner, a business trip, or a team conference, and if you happen to be in New York City: dear vegans, you know where to take your team. A search for “vegan” on the Michelin Star Guide isn’t disappointing either. Here’s to Daniel Humm, Matthew Kenney, and all the amazing vegan chefs out there—your role in getting the world to experience a vegan future cannot be understated

As I left Eleven Madison Park in the wee hours of the morning, stepping off their old-kitchen-melted-slab—I congratulated the team and said, “Thank you for your service.”

Our Meal at Eleven Madison Park

The menu was beyond delicious and specifically, the BEET course takes two days to prepare and CUCUMBER course takes over two hours with two chefs working simultaneously to meticulously layer the ingredients per serving!

  1. TOMATO Tea with Lemon Verbena, Yellow Tomato Dosa, Salad with Garlic and Sancho
  2. CELTUCE in Variations with Rice
  3. TONBURI with Okra and Baby Lettuce
  4. CUCUMBER with Melon and Smoked Daikon
  5. SUMMER SQUASH with Lemongrass and Marinated Tofu
  6. SWEET PEPPER with Swiss Chard
  7. EGGPLANT with Tomato and Coriander
  8. BEET with Horseradish and Herbs
  9. MELON Smoked and Fresh with Yogurt
  10. BLUEBERRY with Elderflower
  11. SESAME Chocolate Pretzel
  12. BREAD with Sunflower Seed Butter

Note from Victoria Moran and Main Street Vegan: After we published this piece, the following came out in the NY Post, attesting that Eleven Madison Park has a private room with a meat-heavy menu (including foie gras) for elite clients. Link here to that story.

Photo credit: Nivi Jasawl

Nivi Jaswal, MBA, NBC-HWC, MVLC, a connector at heart, builds strong teams inspired to deliver socially responsible projects with high community impact. She brings 15 years’ experience in marketing and corporate strategy in CPG, life sciences, and media and research industry. In various assignments across APAC, EU and Middle East, and Africa, Nivi has managed large brands and complex projects involving innovation, consumer research and communications development. She is a Professional Team Member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. At her nonprofit, Nivi brings together professionals with diverse specialties such as anthropology, psychology, animal rights, social work, lifestyle medicine, filmmaking, and creative problem-solving to design climate-conscious, plant-powered projects addressing chronic illness and encouraging emotional wellbeing. In 2020, Virsā launched the JIVINITI platform in the United States, advocating for low-income women of color and the JIVINITI women’s coalition comprising women leaders with plant-based nutrition, medical science, and social justice expertise.

3 thoughts on “Casting Away My Carnist Corporate Ego at Eleven Madison Park”

  1. How could Eleven Madison Park have a separate room serving exploited animals as food? That’s shocking. So sad that that it’s considered a ‘luxury’ to support animal cruelty. It takes far more skill and creativity to provide culinary masterpieces exclusively from plants ????. It’s the fusion of herbs, spices and the bounty of a garden that create a truly delectable feast.

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