Chef Spotlight: Interview with Daniel Humm

The James Beard Award Winner Goes Casual for Summer

Esquire magazine recently dubbed him “The Greatest Chef in America.” Eleven Madison Park, his Manhattan eatery, was chosen by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants organization as the finest on Earth for 2017. Now the man is opening a venture in the Hamptons. Hear what celebrated chef Daniel Humm has in mind for the summer.

Congratulations on your recent accolade (EMP being named this year’s top eating destination in the world at the annual gathering of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants). This clearly means the status of your restaurant in NYC, already tremendous, is likely to swell even further. Does this change your original game plan for EMP Summer House? Do you feel you must lock in the flagship shop’s personality, or will your East Hampton pop-up end up a singular stop?

While we love the Hamptons, our game plan for EMP Summer House remains the same – a summer-long pop-up while Eleven Madison Park is renovated back in New York. We will certainly savor our time out East, but we’re also tremendously excited to get back into our new kitchen and dining room in September!

Does the Summer House menu hold anything radically different from what you do in Manhattan? Anything a guest might find that those of us familiar with EMP would be surprised to discover?

EMP Summer House will definitely be a more casual version of what we do at Eleven Madison Park. It will have a summer-y feel, there will be a seafood-centric menu, and we’ll have a combination of indoor and outdoor spaces for guests. We designed it to be the type of place we’d want to visit during the summer – a place you can sit outside, eat a great meal with great company over a bottle of wine or two.

With Montauk only a short ride away, does the direct access to the ocean influence the menu? You can have something that was swimming in the morning ready to plate by dinnertime. Any plans to take advantage of that potential?

Of course! We’re so excited to be that much closer to the amazing sfihermen and farmers that are out East. We already have great relationships with Widow’s Hole Oyster, Amagansett Sea Salt, Satur Farms, and Dock to Dish, and we can’t wait to work with them more closely this summer.

The East End of Long Island, we know it’s wine country. Will you be looking to local vineyards when picking wines to serve?

We will definitely feature some local East End vineyards and have plenty of rose. Our wine director will be working with some local spots to select bottles of the list.

We know that EMP is a restaurant through and through, but with the massive summer crowd—known for its party appetite—out and about at night, is there any chance you’ll be bringing some late-night DJs or bands aboard to add some deep-evening appeal?

We certainly want to encourage our guests to enjoy themselves over wine, cocktails, or dessert (or a combination of all three!) after their meal, but we also want to be mindful and respectful of our summertime neighbors, so no late-night DJs planned.

Fluke Ceviche

It’s still early, but we’re already fantasizing about what the summer holds. Let’s play “Perfect Meal For…” Imagine it’s late July: what would be the perfect meal and paired wine to suggest?

The beauty of the space and of what we’re trying to create is that it’s flexible to the experience guests are looking for. On the weekends, we’ll be open for both lunch and dinner, so that gives us flexibility to offer different experiences in that way. We’ll also have a more casual menu available outside – so we’ll be ready whatever the situation, party size, or temperature.

A final thought: it’s pretty clear Eleven Madison Park has been judged a masterpiece. With such success, do you feel any pressure to do something just as breathtaking in the Hamptons?

No matter what we do, we always strive to give our guests amazing, memorable experiences. That may mean one thing at Eleven Madison Park over a tasting menu in a pristine dining room, and that may mean a different type of experience out in the backyard of EMP Summer House in the Hamptons. So yes, there is pressure to do something breathtaking, but the way in which we achieve that in this new, more casual space will be entirely different, but we hope equally as breathtaking. It presents an exciting challenge!