Daniel Humm, the Swiss-born chef of New York’s Eleven Madison Park (which yesterday was named the world’s fifth best restaurant by S. Pellegrino and Restaurant Magazine), was honored last week by the Culinary Institute of America for his ability to constantly innovate. In an interview, he elaborated on this talent, which has its roots in an unlikely source.
"Our first major review was in the New York Observer," Humm told the gathered crowd. "We got three and a half out of four stars, which was way too generous in my opinion. But one line she said really interested me: 'I wish it had more Miles Davis.' What does that mean?"
Humm and his team set to work, and assembled a list of words associated with Davis: forward-thinking, reinvention, light, innovative, spontaneous. "Those words became our mission statement and inspiration," he said.
"To go from Kind of Blue to B*tches’ Brew, that’s unfathomable," he added. "He created new genres with every album. Be creative. Move forward. Push boundaries. People will remember Miles Davis in 50 years. I hope that people will remember us, that we did something meaningful."
Whereas most restaurants tend to stay the same throughout their entire run, Eleven Madison Park (which opened as a brasserie) has constantly reinvented itself, with menus that push boundaries and are always surprising.
"I need to change to stay the same," Humm said. "If nothing changes, I get bored with it very quickly."