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This Esquire Profile on Daniel Humm Is Bonkers

“The Greatest Chef in America”

Daniel Humm and Will Guidara Daniel Krieger

Forget anything you knew about Daniel Humm, the chef behind the world's third best restaurant, Eleven Madison Park, because Jeff Gordinier’s feature of the Hummdog will make your eyeballs fall onto the white tablecloth. In a nearly 4500-word essay for Esquire, Gordinier tells the story of “America’s Greatest Chef:” How Humm began cooking in Switzerland, Humm’s preferred methods of staying in shape, and what he threw at a line cook’s head once. Here are the best quotes:

  1. Humm, on priorities: “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?”
  2. Gordinier, on royalty: “Symbolically, Eleven Madison Park also serves as a sort of Buckingham Palace: the heart and focal point of an aggressively expanding empire.”
  3. Chef Bo Bech, on Humm: "He's not only cooking for himself. He's actually cooking for people. He wants them to be happy. He's not trying to fuck your mouth with things you've never heard of.”
  4. Gordinier, on dream-weaving: “You've always wondered what it would be like if you could return to your apartment on the bare back of a snorting snow-white stallion? Be careful what you wish for.”
  5. Wylie Dufresne, on the Humm and Will Guidara bromance: “It's not totally clear where one starts and the other ends."
  6. Humm, on passion: “Then he puts down a glass of wine and explains that when he uses the word passion, he's referring to a German word: leidenschaft. Break down the word and it means something more along the lines of "enjoy suffering."
  7. Gordinier, on how the Humm computer works: “In some ways, an Iyengar yoga session serves as a useful expression of the pain-and-pleasure dynamic that constitutes Humm's own OS.”
  8. Gordinier, on terrible gifts: “Around the time of the accident, Humm's passion for cooking was surging, and when he looks back, he sees the crash—like his crushing breakup with Elaine—as something of a twisted gift.”
  9. Humm, on cycling: "I was good, but I was never going to be Lance Armstrong," he says. "I decided to put all my energy into cooking. I made cooking my sport."
  10. Gordinier, on being intense: “Humm may have a high threshold for pain, but not everyone shared his willingness to suffer for perfection. His wrath could scorch skulls.”
  11. Gordinier, on the miracle of life: “Curious about that pear dessert? You can open one of the binders and watch how the dessert changed, just like watching an embryo in a sonogram.”