The 2021 Met Gala starts with plants — here’s why


Marcus Samuelson faced a challenge: For the Met Gala, Anna Wintour asked him and his team to bring in talented chefs who also had unique stories to tell. Go for people who have an untold story, remember to tell it.

It was a big job. This year, for the first time ever, the Met Gala will present a menu with recipes by specially selected chefs. And that’s not all: the menu will be entirely vegetarian.

The move marks a significant change from the September event, which has only served meals in the past. The 10 New York-based chefs were chosen by chef and restaurateur (and brand consultant Bon Appétit) Samuelsson as part of the goal of celebrating the city’s boom again after a very difficult year. “We want to tell the world we’re back — New York City is back as a place to gather and celebrate,” he told Bon Appetit in an exclusive interview. “We’re telling both New Yorkers and foreigners that New York is open for business.”

Faryal Abdullah, Naseem Alikhani, Emma Bengtson, Lazarus Lynch, Junghyun’s ParkAnd Eric Ramirez, Thomas Raquel, Sophia RogueAnd Simon TongAnd And Fabian von Hauske Each will contribute a recipe that reflects their unique style of American cuisine. The lineup includes restaurateurs, Bon Appétit Hot 10 Alumni, food activists, cookbook authors, and TV personalities are broadening the definition of what it means to be a chef in New York — and an American. “They represent what the New York food scene looks like today, what the next generation of food looks like, tastes, and where they live,” Samuelsson says.

This year’s Met Gala theme is In America: A Fashion Dictionary, Part One of a two-part fall and spring exhibition exploring modern American styles as well as connections to issues of equality, diversity, and inclusion. And the decision to offer an all-vegetarian menu was, well, based on modern American appetites. Fine restaurants across the country are exploring vegetarian menus, most notably Eleven Madison Park in New York City, reflecting a shift in insights within the industry and tastes among diners. “We thought it was important to really talk about what’s out there, what’s happening — how food is changing in America,” Samuelsson says. “We want to be the future of American food, and plant-based food. This conversation is happening right now.”

In the weeks leading up to the event, Vogue and Instagram share reels of chefs making summer recipes, like watermelon salad, roasted potato skins, and tuna-free Niçoise salad. It will be different from what will be served at the Met Gala, but it will also be vegetarian.

For Samuelsson, bringing the botanical conversation to a fashion event was a natural. “Both industries respect craftsmanship,” he explains. “Being a chef means working a lot with style with people. It’s the same with fashion. It’s a different medium, but you really express a point of view and a sense of place.” In terms of eating plants, a lot of the fashion industry uses natural materials as well, he points out. Both industries explore their relationship to nature and the environment. And with each other: Take Gucci’s partnerships with Massimo Bottura in the US, Europe and Asia, or Louis Vuitton’s new restaurant Sugalabo V at its Osaka store.

Samuelsson hopes that Met Gala food, as well as clothing, will spark conversation. He feels ambitious about the future of food at this event. “I’m excited because I hope to start a tradition where next spring the public will come to eat as well.”


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