Chef Daniel Humm On Winning The World's Best Restaurant & What He Cooks At Home

Photo: Sam Deitch/BFA/REX/Shutterstock.
Daniel Humm is the chef and co-owner of the best restaurant in the world. That title might sound like it should be subjective, but every year The World's 50 Best Restaurant List rocks the food scene, and Humm's restaurant, Eleven Madison Park (EMP) came out on top for 2017. While Humm can typically be found whipping up fine-dining tasting menus at his flagship restaurant, this summer, while EMP is under renovation, he moved his entire staff to a pop-up version of the eatery in the Hamptons. We caught up with Humm on the opening night of EMP Summer House, a partnership with Amex Platinum, to ask him what it's like to be the chef at the world's best restaurant, what he eats at home, and his advice for those of us who aren't quite as skilled in the kitchen. If you're hoping to get a get a seat at one of his summer tables, be advised that spots are only open to Amex members — and Amex cards are the only payment the restaurant accepts.
What's it like being the chef at the best restaurant in the world?
I don't think about it that way. It's great to have accomplishments. We set goals for ourselves, and I think it's important to have those. I was a professional cyclist before, and when you enter a race, you want to win it. It's not everything, but it's incredible how it motivates the team. There's such an energy on our team right now. That gives momentum and gives room for evolution.
Advertisement
How do you come up with the concepts for your menus? What's your process?
When I'm out here in the Hamptons, and I think about what I would want [to eat], that's what we created. Same with Made Nice for a quick-casual restaurant, that's the food that I would want, so that's what we did. Same with Eleven Madison, if you think of a tasting menu restaurant, that's the experience we would want. So, it always has to come from within and from your heart. Just express yourself the way you would want it.
Photo: Sam Deitch/BFA/REX/Shutterstock.
What's your favorite dish you've ever cooked?
We just did a retrospective at Eleven Madison of the 11 most important dishes of the last 11 years. There have been many dishes that have been important either for personal development, a new technique that we had a breakthrough [with], a dish that somehow gave us a great review, or a dish that made the guests come back. So, there have been many.
What do you cook at home?
I like simple things in life. Good quality, but not too much and simple. It could be a great spaghetti with a great tomato sauce or a beautiful piece of fish with salad. I love to cook.
Is there anything you don't like to eat?
No. [But] it has to be done in a nice way. I don't like bad food. For me, food and eating enriches life so much.
Advertisement
Is there a food or a dish you ate when you were younger that you would never eat now?
You know what I used to eat — and I would eat it again, but I haven't eaten it in a long time — for breakfast I would eat yogurt, plain yogurt, and Ovaltine. I would put an amount of Ovaltine on top of the yogurt, and I would eat that for breakfast. I would take the spoon [of Ovaltine], and I would go into the yogurt, so it had a layer of yogurt [too] — and that's what I would eat. It's delicious. I haven't done that in a long time.
Photographed by David Williams.
What's the one dish that every 20-something should know how to make?
Everyone should know how to make a great salad and everyone should know how to cook a bowl of pasta.
On the unicorn food trend:
He hadn't heard of it, but after a quick explanation of its rainbow, sparkly nature, Humm decided his "kids would love it."
Travel for the author was provided by Amex Platinum and accommodations were provided by Amex Platinum for the purpose of writing this story.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Advertisement