Daniel Humm

Strengelbach - Argovia

Daniel Humm 2023 07 16 12 10 44

Daniel Humm, the world's best chef according to World's Fifty Best in 2017, is a man of transformations. Rising to global fame with dishes like roast chicken and honey-lavender duck, he announced upon reopening after the COVID-19 pandemic that he would be offering a vegan cuisine due to his newfound awareness of sustainability. This marked the first time a three-star restaurant in the world would be embracing veganism.

Daniel Humm was born in 1976 in Strengelbach, a small village in the canton of Argovia, Switzerland. From a young age, he enjoyed accompanying his mother to the market to select fresh, local ingredients. Another passion of his was mountain biking, which he started at the age of ten, eventually becoming a part of the Swiss Junior National Team. At fourteen, he left school to work in the kitchen, despite his architect father's opposition, who had envisioned a different future for him. "And it was the best decision I ever made. My father was against it, but I persisted. I learned much more outside of school than inside." Nevertheless, he remained an admirer of beauty and an art collector.

His debut was at "Baur au Lac" on Lake Zurich. Within a year, his choice of career became permanent: at just fifteen years old, amidst conflict with his father, Humm informed his parents that he would not return home and packed his bags to work as a commis at "Claridge's" in London. At eighteen, he became a father to his first daughter, Justine, but the mother left, severing all ties. His reaction was to throw himself into work with rage: every ounce of energy and every moment was dedicated to learning in the best restaurants, while he continued training as a professional cyclist. At twenty-one, he participated in the Swiss Cycling Championship in Lenzerheide, but an accident that confined him to bed for six months made him realize that his true calling was in the kitchen, as he would never reach any podium on two wheels.

After a stint at the catering company Gamma, he finally found himself at a three-star establishment, "Pont de Brent" in Montreux, where he stayed for three years, absorbing knowledge from chef Gérard Rabaey. He was then offered his first chef position at the "Gasthaus zum Gupf" resort in Rehetobel. Within a short period, he earned his first MICHELIN Star at the age of twenty-four. The following year, while going to the market for groceries as he did every morning, he had an accident that destroyed the owner's car. Unfazed, he rented another car to make it in time for service.

Despite not speaking English, Humm moved to the United States in 2003 to become the executive chef at "Campton Place" in San Francisco, where he immediately caught the attention of critics. It was during this time that renowned restaurateur Danny Meyer was trying to revitalize "Eleven Madison Park," which at the time was a French-style brasserie struggling to take off. He was in search of an ambitious young chef, and he did not overlook the early recognition bestowed upon Humm. In January 2006, Humm set foot in Manhattan and met Will Guidara, who would become his partner in the restaurant's redesign and eventually his business partner from 2011 onwards, with Meyer's departure following the launch of their competing establishment, the "NoMad Hotel," also awarded a MICHELIN Star.

Right after a monumental investment in the restaurant, aimed at reaching new heights, the 2008 financial crisis brought everything into question, despite strict cost-saving measures. Nonetheless, the restaurant received its first MICHELIN Star and the James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef in New York. Just a year later, it achieved the second and third MICHELIN Stars simultaneously.

In 2017, Humm was named the World's Best Chef, and the following year, he and Guidara opened a "NoMad" in Los Angeles, only to part ways in July 2019. In the same year, Humm inaugurated Davies and Brook, his first restaurant outside of the United States, located at the "Claridge's Hotel" in London, where he had once peeled tomatoes and carved cucumber stars as a commis. During these years, he authored four books: "Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook," "I Love New York: Ingredients and Recipes," "The NoMad Cookbook," and "Eleven Madison Park: The Next Chapter."

The pandemic shattered all certainties. Humm temporarily closed "Eleven Madison Park" and dedicated himself to charity through Rethink Food, a nonprofit organization based in New York, aiming to create a more equitable and sustainable food system. Together, they supported first responders and struggling citizens, serving up to 3,000 meals per day. They also launched "Eleven Madison Home," a meal kit for home consumption, with each purchase funding ten charitable meals. In April 2021, the "Eleven Madison Truck" arrived, serving 2,000 meals per week, funded by customers.

In the same year, following the pandemic, Daniel reopened "Eleven Madison Park" as a fully plant-based restaurant. In October 2022, it became the first and only vegan restaurant in the history of the MICHELIN Guide to receive three stars. Although the idea was considered, the ownership of the "Claridge's Hotel" opposed the menu reformation, leading the great chef to part ways with them.


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