How Daniel Humm Became the World's Best Chef


HIS DISHES WERE SO GOOD, SO REVELATORY, THAT WEALTHY CUSTOMERS STARTED FLYING TO THE RESTAURANT VIA HELICOPTER TO EAT THEM.

The tree in the snow stopped his slide toward doom. It also wrecked the SUV. “The car was totally fucked,” Humm says. At that moment, though, the state of his employer’s Mercedes was not his primary concern. “All I thought about was How am I gonna get to the market? The restaurant would not function if I didn›t have the ingredients.» After extracting himself from the shattered hull of the Mercedes, Humm hiked back up the slope to Gasthaus zum Gupf, borrowed another car from a friend, and hauled ass to Zurich to make it to the market in time. “Only on the way back did things start to settle in,” he says. “I realized that I could have died.”

“Dude, it’s been hard.” Humm says this seconds after he tells me the story about the sliding Mercedes. It’s a Monday evening at I Sodi, a restaurant in New York’s West Village where he retreats when he wants what a lot of chefs want on a night off—a bottle or two of good red wine and a few comforting bowls of cheese-dusted pasta, still hot from the boil and just the right amount of chewy. “This is my favorite place in New York,” he says. “I come here whenever I can. It’s really honest, you know?” Hard is not necessarily a word that people associate with Daniel Humm. At forty, he is the head chef and one of the owners of Eleven Madison Park, a restaurant in Manhattan that is celebrated around the world for a casual clockwork opulence. Symbolically, Eleven Madison Park also serves as a sort of Buckingham Palace: the heart and focal point of