As Executive Chef and Owner of Eleven Madison Park Chef Daniel Humm has received every accolade possible in the culinary world, from three Michelin stars to being named ‘Best Restaurant in the World.’ But when it came time to reopen after the pandemic he had a much different vision for the kind of cooking he wanted to do. I spoke with Chef Humm about the vision behind his switch to an all plant-based menu, his new book ‘Eat More Plants’ and why you better have a few Wimbledon titles under your belt before you barge into his kitchen.
What was your first drink?
I grew up in Europe so wine was always on the table. It was part of the culture. But the first drink-drink — was Campari orange. We were teenagers and thought it was a good idea to drink the whole bottle. (Laughs) I can never drink that again.
Do you enjoy any spirits now?
I’ve never been into spirits that much. That's why we created our own non-alcoholic vermouth. More and more people are asking for non-alcoholic drinks and it’s nice to start the meal off with something.
What are your favorite wines?
Burgundies are definitely my favorite, white and red. For me wine is very much part of cooking. When we create dishes I think about the wine. I love the winemakers and the traditions and the winemaking process.
How does it feel to celebrate Eleven Madison Park’s 25th anniversary?
It’s been more emotional than I ever thought. I've been there 19 years — the restaurant's been there 25 years — but it's been my life. There's been ups and downs but I have more excitement for the restaurant now than I've ever had. And that is quite magical. I never thought that moving to New York I would only have one job.
How did you envision your career early on?
I was a professional cyclist and had a bad accident when I was 22 and couldn't continue. The only other love I had was for cooking. So since I couldn't be the best cyclist I wanted to become one of the best chefs. And winning was very important. I wanted to win every award there was. We have two Michelin stars, we want to get three stars! We're number twenty five, we want to be number one!
It made the restaurant better and better and the team got stronger and stronger. Then in 2017 we became the ‘Best Restaurant in the World.’ There was not a single award that we didn't have. And honestly it was disorienting. We spoke every day for twenty years about how to become the ‘Best Restaurant in the World’ — we never spent five minutes talking about what would happen if we get there.
How did that change your vision for the restaurant?
I knew that there had to be something bigger. I co-founded an organization called Rethink Food, taking food from restaurants and preparing meals for people in need. That
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