The good and the beautiful at the new Eleven Madison

Humm: «Guidara and I changed at the peak of our success. But 8 years ago I was wondering if it was over»

19-10-2017

The entrance to Eleven Madison Park, Will Guidara’s and Daniel Humm’s super restaurant in Manhattan

«Those were four difficult months for me. Every day, for 12 years, I’d enter my restaurant in the morning, and leave at night. Work was my only thought. Then Will [Guidara] and I decided to renew Eleven Madison and so for four months everyone was saying “you’re so lucky to be cooking in the Hamptons”. But I really don’t like the Hamptons. I went there as rarely as possible because it was about making burgers and sandwiches.

Will Guidara and Luisa Marchi

Will Guidara and Luisa Marchi

So I had nothing to do, if not look after the works in Manhattan. Same place, but it wasn’t the same. Staying in a kitchen is one thing, staying in a working site is another. Now I’m back to the usual life, the only I like», and we’re there to congratulate him, Daniel Humm, and Will Guidara, the best restaurant in the World’s 50 Best 2017, after in April 2016 Massimo Bottura was celebrated at the top in 2016 in their very restaurant.

Daniel Humm with Luisa Marchi

Daniel Humm with Luisa Marchi

In a completely new Eleven Madison, coherently new, so much so you have to spot the differences, you think of the people who were dancing on the tables early that morning, on the night dedicated to Italy, with broken glasses, Champagne everywhere, even on the floor because it’s not just empty glasses that fall and break. And one wonders how Guidara and Humm managed to open the following day at lunchtime. Will laughs: «We worked in three shifts: the first thought of Massimo’s party. The second, once everyone was gone, cleaned every corner. The third arrived to make lunch». Put it this way, it seems like a joke. As long as you studied everything in detail.

The new dining room at Eleven Madison Park, always on two levels, but closer to each other

The new dining room at Eleven Madison Park, always on two levels, but closer to each other

The new bar area in a photo by Gary He

The new bar area in a photo by Gary He

Eleven Madison Park opened again on Sunday 8th October, 70 cooks for ten services, seven dinners and three lunches (on Friday, Saturday, Sunday), five shifts for one half, five for the other, the same menu for everyone, except for physical and sometimes mental allergies because allergies can also be a matter of the mind. The real change is the bar area. It’s completely new. You can no longer choose à la carte, but follow a short tasting menu. The main one is also shorter, with a few new elements: in some phases, you can choose. A small, significant revolution: «Clients feel they’re in charge», smiles Humm.

So the appetizers are the same for everyone, then comes the first choice: clam or mushroom cake? Mushroom for me, clams for my wife Luisa. Then comes a thin and rich cheesecake already cut into small slices made precious upon service with a quenelle of caviar. But there’s also a similar cheesecake but with no sturgeon caviar. It’s the vegetarian option. Lobster and then baked pumpkin follow, then a second option: duck or veal? Both, duck for Luisa and veal for me, and then off to dessert.

When renovating the kitchens, the fridge where they hang the ducks has been moved to the main area. Before, it was on the floor above, hidden from the clients

When renovating the kitchens, the fridge where they hang the ducks has been moved to the main area. Before, it was on the floor above, hidden from the clients

Humm said: «Including some options is good for the cooks too, so they don’t end up cooking the same things throughout the season». But this is just a detail. Truth is, everything at Eleven Madison is now focused on the dish, there are no longer frills all around. Daniel is 41, Will 38. They’re entering their professional adulthood. The chef said: «We’ve questioned ourselves, at the peak of our success. You must change when nobody believes it’s time to do so. If you wait for the cracks, for the first criticism, the message is completely different».

There’s more, however. Humm continues: «I grew up with a classic training. I’ve never been into molecular cuisine, a chef who follows the trend. At one point, some eight years ago, seeing the success of many others, I recalled my father, an architect who studied using a pencil. When computers arrived in his world, he felt it was over, cut off the new market. What if that had happened to me? There’s a beautiful quote by Judy Garland who once said you always need to be the original version of yourself, or else you’re copying someone else. This applies to me, and this is the result. And it takes time to learn this. Lucio Fontana didn’t learn the essential importance of cuts overnight».

The cheesecake at Eleven Madison Park

The cheesecake at Eleven Madison Park

A small final note: Eleven Madison is one of the very few establishments in the United States where tips are banned. Since 2015. No exceptions are allowed. Elsewhere, they might add up to 20% when booking.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso

Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Avenue
New York, New York 10010
Tel. : +1 212-889-0905
Website: elevenmadisonpark.com
Tasting menu only: 295 dollars 8/10 courses in the dining room, 155 at the bar, 5 courses.

 

 


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