There Can Never Be One Best Restaurant In the World: Chef of World's Best Restaurant 2017
Eleven Madison Park's Chef Daniel Humm discusses the title of world's best restaurant and what it means ahead of the the World's 50 Best Restaurants 2018 list, which will be announced on June 19 in Bilbao.
Scallops with Bread, Butter Broth at Eleven Madison Park (Image: AFP Relaxnews)
When Eleven Madison Park was declared the best restaurant on the planet at the World's 50 Best Restaurants gala in Melbourne last year, chef Daniel Humm sprang up from his seat and gave his business partner Will Guidara a bear hug. There was giddy excitement. Earnest and humble thanks. And congratulatory hugs all-round. The lofty title -- the latest in a string of accolades collected over the years -- was affirmation for Humm that he had indeed turned a new page in his culinary career.
Because despite the rave reviews, triple Michelin stars, sold-out dining rooms, and to the likely surprise of many in the food world, for years Humm said he felt like the restaurant was floundering, searching for its identity. "It's only in the last two years that we feel very confident in who we are, that we really found ourselves," Humm said during an interview on a balmy May afternoon in Paris.
It was also a few weeks away from the 2018 edition of the World's 50 Best Restaurants awards, when Humm and the rest of the world's gastronomic elite will learn if his New York restaurant will hold on to the top spot. Nearly a year into wearing the crown, Humm is decidedly less starry-eyed about the awards, downplaying the title and betraying a dose of disillusionment. "For me, there can never be 'one best restaurant in the world.' It's kind of ridiculous to say that."
He's grateful for the number of doors that have opened post-World's 50 Best; for putting a fire under his team; and for filling up the reservation books months in advance. "Of course we were proud to be there, proud to be part of the conversation and be recognized," Humm is quick to add, to soften the blow of his previous assertion. But he's also less convinced that any kind of ranking can make such a lofty, broad claim. "When there is a ranking, of course it's nicer to be at the top rather than the bottom. But there are so many great chefs, so many great restaurants that are adding to the conversation so we understand that our time won't be forever," he says.
Humm was in Paris at the invitation of another gastronomic outfit, which flew in some of the top chefs from around the world to help them organize what the group is pitching as the world's first televised restaurant awards night. Next February, the World Restaurant Awards will aim to bring the glamour of the Oscars to the food world, with a red carpet event that will be broadcast out of Paris.
But Humm is skeptical here too, saying, "It's a big endeavor, and it's a big world. And if there's one thing I realized when I was in India, it's that the world is a big place," he says, referring to a recent R&D trip to the country. "And the people in that room there, we all eat in the same places."
The World's 50 Best Restaurants list will be announced on June 19 in Bilbao.
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