Gastronomy News Chef

Daniel Humm: "No More Caviar, Fine Dining Has Changed : Let's Focus on Saving the Planet."

Francesca Feresin
copertina daniel humm 2023 10 02 18 05 35

Chef Daniel Humm shares his culinary philosophy, redefining the concepts of sustainability and food awareness. "We need to leave behind the legacies of the past."

The opinion 

Eleven Madison Park, based in New York, is a true institution - we're talking about a restaurant with three Michelin stars since 2012, constantly pushing the boundaries of sophisticated global cuisine. Considered one of the best restaurants in the world, it made headlines post-pandemic for the bold choice of chef Daniel Humm, whose menu became entirely plant-based. A gamble that paid off, making it the world's first and only three-star vegan restaurant. During that time, Humm also decided to distribute meals to those in need in New York, collaborating with a non-profit organization. Then, the 46-year-old Swiss chef wrote numerous books to clearly convey his idea of sustainability. Strongly inspired by art and architecture, he believes that food should be equally creative, combining ethics and aesthetics.

daniel humm letizia cigliutti
@Letizia Cigliutti
daniel humm piatto

In a conversation with Travel+Leisure India & South Asia, he delves into his vision of modern food systems: "We often feel that some of our traditions define us. But perhaps we should all take a step back, rethink, and question these very traditions. Let me explain: our experience in transforming the Eleven Madison Park menu into a fully plant-based tasting menu was enlightening, despite the fear that it might be limiting. I was so focused on European cuisine that I didn't look beyond. Now that we've transitioned to plant-based products, it's much more stimulating. Take India, for example. Plant-based cuisine is not new here; it has been practiced for hundreds of years. In Japan, even Zen Buddhist cuisine is plant-based."

daniel humm portrat

"If we don't wake up and make changes now, our food systems won't be sustainable anymore. Some people adopt plant-based diets for reasons ranging from animal welfare to religion and even health. But we can't ignore the bigger evidence: we are depleting the planet's resources. If we continue to eat as we do today, there won't be enough for everyone in the future." So, is plant-based the only way to go? "Eleven Madison Park has always been a place of creativity, aiming to push the boundaries of gastronomy. We decided to go all-in with plant-based menus for this reason. But I believe that no one, in the future, can ignore that meat consumption must be significantly reduced. What's on our plate is the most powerful thing an individual can do against climate change. If we choose to eat green even one or two days a week, the difference is enormous.

Daniel Humm Evan Sung
@Evan Sung

Over the course of my career, I pursued perfection. Today, for me, it's more about progress than perfection. Yes, the ideal would be for everyone to eat plant-based foods, but it's not the most realistic scenario. When we started, our mission was to be the best restaurant in the world. Today, our mission is to create positive change through human connection and the magic of food. I think this is a golden moment for cuisine. On the other hand, fine dining is moving away from the rigid and pretentious construct it once was; we need to redefine the concept of luxury. There are so many ingredients, like caviar, that are no longer as sought after: it's just an old idea of luxury."

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Any advice for young chefs? "I often go back to a quote from Miles Davis: he says you have to know the rules before you can break them. Cooking is a craft, so there are no shortcuts. Mastering your craft is the only way to have a voice in your field. The film 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi' highlights a father-son duo and the sushi restaurant they run. It's only at the age of 55 that the son manages to move to the next phase, even reaching the point of cutting the fish. So, my advice would be to continue refining your techniques."

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