Recently crowned Best Chef US by James Beard in 2012, Daniel Humm brought his cooking prowess from the Swiss Alps and San Francisco to New York with Eleven Madison Park and more recently, The NoMad. More works of art than restaurants, both restaurants have been generating tons of food buzz – including on TNP – and Humm is to thank for it all. We chatted with the chef on all things culinary to kick off this week…
What would be your ideal food day?
I would like to go for a long bike ride and then have a bowl of yogurt with homemade granola at home with my girls. For lunch, I would roast a few chickens and make a big salad, maybe some great bread and a rustic tart, and invite friends over. And for dinner, something super simple and comforting – maybe Korean dumplings or ramen – at a hole in the wall in Manhattan.
When it comes to Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad, do you believe you’ve created timeless spaces? How have you managed to do so?
Both Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad are set in incredibly historic buildings; both are landmark buildings that speak to a very specific time and place. Eleven Madison Park is in the Met Life building, an Art Deco space that was at one time a grand meeting hall for the company’s executives. It still has so many elements from that time – terrazzo floors, marble detailing and one of the oldest fluorescent light fixtures in New York. The NoMad is in what was known as the Johnston Building, built in the first years of the 1900s and home of the National Cash Register Corporation. In both cases, we wanted to preserve elements of their history and past, weaving them together with our modern approach to food and dining. It is the combination of those two things – of truly historic spaces with a contemporary approach to hospitality – that allows us to create something timeless, rooted in the past with an eye towards the present.
How would you define the cuisine at each?
I would describe both places as contemporary American, with Eleven Madison Park having a focus on New York and The NoMad having a more rustically refined one.
Does the variety of spaces within The NoMad allow for more creativity in terms of the food? How so?
The NoMad can feel eccentric because of its varied spaces, but because of that, I think that it’s important for the food to feel rooted in the classic – in flavor combinations that are familiar and recognizable. I like that you can feel like you’re in a crazy chateau but eating a whole-roasted chicken.
Could you give us your top menu favorites from both restaurants?
It’s hard to pick favorites, but from The NoMad, the Roasted Chicken and the Milk and Honey are two of our most popular dishes. From Eleven Madison Park, our Roasted Duck Glazed in Honey and Lavender.
What wines go best with the menu at Eleven Madison Park?
Our wine director, Dustin Wilson, is wonderful at pairing a great variety of wines, beers, and cocktails with our dishes. I love that through our pairings and our beverage lists, our guests get to try things from all over the world. Certain dishes will go great with a local wine or beer while others will brighten with the complexity of something from Italy or France. It all depends on the dish – and on the person who’s eating it!
What’s the best time to come to both The NoMad and Eleven Madison Park?
In both places, I love seeing the rooms bathed in natural light. At The NoMad, the light that streams in through the glass ceiling in the atrium throughout the morning is beautiful. And at Eleven Madison Park, getting to see the park through the early afternoon light is just gorgeous.
What’s different about a restaurant within a hotel?
Although there are practical differences (the fact that breakfast and room service are necessarily a part of what you do, for example) I don’t think there has to be an ideological difference. A hotel restaurant should be as delicious, as thoughtful and as hospitable as any other one.