Currently the World No. 1 Chef, Daniel Humm is an art fanatic who is breaking the clutter with his distinctive style of neoclassicism. By Shikha Pushpan
A quick scroll through Chef Daniel Humm’s Instagram profile and you’ll know why this 42-year-old Swiss-born chef is called the undisputed ‘King of Minimalism’. Every creation—black and white cookies, Long Island clam bake, carrot tartare with rye bread and condiments— is a piece of art with bare minimal (read: two to three) ingredients.
On his debut trip to India last month for The World Series hosted by American Express, Humm was smitten by the tandoor and green mango powder, and plans to introduce them at his three-Michelin star restaurant, Eleven Madison Park, New York, which was ranked No. 1 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants List 2017. “The flavours here are quite bold, whereas my cuisine is very subtle. There is one thing that caught my attention, and I would love to have it in my kitchen. I had a samosa the other day, and it has this amazing acidity to it. I thought it was vinegar or lime, but I was told that it’s the green mango powder that does the trick. I always look for ways to add acidity to my food. So, this is definitely going to be our big takeaway from India,” he said in his relaxed, Swiss-American drawl.
While star chefs Gérard Rabaey, Alain Passard, and Joël Robuchon were Humm’s early inspirations, it is the minimalist work of Italian artist, Lucio Fontana, that has really shaped his food philosophy. Humm earned his first Michelin star at the age of 24 for the restaurant, Gasthaus Zum Gupf. However, it’s been only two or three years since he discovered himself as a chef. This breakthrough, he said, came through his signature dish with just two ingredients, celery root with black truffles. “Minimalism— it’s the most difficult thing to do. But when I created this dish, I knew it was complete, without any extra sauces or garnishing. I knew it was going to blow away people’s minds. I have just one dish in 25 years, everything else seems far away from it.” It is this quest for perfection that has led him to establish the four fundamentals of his cuisine: deliciousness, beauty, creativity, and intention.
So, which is the chef’s favourite city when it comes to food? “New York!” came the prompt response. “There’s no city in the world like NYC. Some of my favourite restaurants here are I Sodi, DANIEL, and Shuko.”
Asked if there was a table etiquette he would like his guests to follow, Humm said, “Just be present in the moment. I wish the world could be more present in what they do—be it enjoying a meal, or having a good conversation.”