Q&A with Executive Chef Daniel Humm

The mastermind behind Eleven Madison Park tells Wine Enthusiast the inspiration behind his award-winning menu.

The culinary team at Eleven Madison Park, led by Executive Chef Daniel Humm, crafts dishes that exhibit elegance and complexity. The wine list features bottles that reveal similar qualities. Emphasizing Burgundy, Rhône, Piedmont and Bordeaux, the wine list spotlights classic wine regions and small artisan producers, with some “funky, off-the-beaten-path wines” that add breadth.

Wine Enthusiast chatted with chef Humm to find out what inspires his award-winning creations and get kitchen tips for home cooks.

Wine Enthusiast: What was the inspiration behind the Peekytoe Crab with Pickled Daikon Radish dish at Eleven Madison Park (pictured)? What’s the ideal wine pairing for this dish?
Daniel Humm:
This is a dish that sort of represents the transition between winter and spring, that season within a season where the trees and the flowers are just starting to bloom, but when there still might be a bit of snow on the ground. The daikon radish is that element of winter, the flowers are decidedly spring and the crab plays off of both of them, with a creaminess that’s reminiscent of the colder months and an acidity from citrus and apples that hints to the warmer ones. The dish could be paired with a Riesling that’s slightly floral that also has minerality and bracing acidity to it.

W.E.: When preparing a tasting menu, how do you modify your culinary technique to establish a better wine-food relationship.
With any menu, it’s important to me that there’s balance in flavors, and that has to do not only with the food, but also with the pairings. And that comes into play as much in a tasting menu as it does in individual dishes.

W.E.: What kitchen tools do you think are essential for every home cook to own?
I think today’s home cooks are bogged down with too many kitchen tools. It all comes down to pinpointing the tools that you personally find you use the most and making sure that those few tools are of the best quality possible. For me, it’s a great set of knives, a great sauté pan and a good cast-iron Dutch oven.

W.E.: After working a hectic Saturday night in the kitchen, what’s your favorite post-shift snack and drink?
I love to go to Koreatown for dumplings or fried chicken and beer.

W.E.: What’s your methodology for crafting a new dish for your tasting menu?
I am most influenced by what’s in season and by what I can find at the market. I always like to play with variations on flavors that are familiar to people and that they can relate to. I also like to capture even the shortest of seasons of a specific ingredient—the few weeks that green almonds are around, for example, or the peak of venison season here in the Northeast.

Read more about Eleven Madison Park.

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