Remember Eleven Madison Park, the restaurant that leapt up 24 places in 2012’s World’s 50 Best Restaurant awards? With its seamless blend of dazzlingly innovative cuisine and old-fashioned grandeur, it has rapidly become a new New York classic, under the wing of head chef Daniel Humm. With Humm at the helm, Eleven Madison Park was voted number one restaurant in the city out of 101 contenders by New York magazine– no small feat in a city proud of its food! We cornered the Manhattan maestro for a quick word about cooking, eating and New York– and he was happy to oblige.
You began the US chapter of your career in San Francisco, where you gained your reputation by earning Campton Place its 4 stars- why did you decide to move to New York?
I was presented with the amazing opportunity to become the executive chef of Eleven Madison Park, which, at the time, was a restaurant that was essentially starting from scratch and moving in a new direction. It was the chance to really do my own thing and to express a unique point of view in one of the most incredible spaces in the world.
What do you think it is about Eleven Madison Park that really captures the spirit of New York?
It’s really part of Eleven Madison Park’s genes. We are located in a landmark building overlooking one of New York’s most historic parks, Madison Square Park. Taking inspiration from that, we have been working with local farmers, many of whom have their own agricultural and family roots just a few miles away. We have also been exploring traditional New York dishes, ones that have been a part of the narrative here for centuries.
What other restaurants in New York do you rate? And what’s the best thing you’ve eaten in the city?
In your opinion, what’s the best city in the world for eating out? What are some of your favourite restaurants around the world?
New York is a culinary city that isn’t afraid of taking risks. But I also love eating in Europe whenever I’m there. Some of my favorite restaurants around the world are Alinea (Chicago), Coi (San Fran) and Michel Bras (France).
Your cooking style takes traditional French flavour combinations and uses new techniques and tools, such as liquid nitrogen and dehydration, to create delicate theatre on a plate. And now anyone can try their hand at culinary artistry with your new Eleven Madison Park cookbook- how difficult will it be for people to recreate your dishes in their own kitchens?
The idea of doing the cookbook was not only to share our recipes with people who wanted to make them at home but also to essentially take a snapshot of Eleven Madison Park at one particular moment in time. The recipes are all written with the intention of being made. Some require more specialized equipment and some are very simple. And all of the recipes, no matter how long or involved, are broken up into very manageable subrecipes. We encourage people to start with those and with our basic recipes which are in the back of the book. Those are the building blocks that allow people to work their way towards making complete dishes.
Eleven Madison Park is a restaurant that’s grown in leaps and bounds over the last few years, gaining its third Michelin star in 2012. What’s next around the corner for Eleven Madison Park?
The future is bright for us. We recognize that awards are for things that happened in the past, so as we achieve one goal, we set the next one and the next one and the next one. We are constantly looking ahead, keeping an eye towards the future as we celebrate the past.
Be sure to check out Hg2’s Eat New York guide for more on dining in Manhattan.