Chef Daniel Humm: A Renaissance Man

Chef Daniel Humm followed his heart and always knew he would find his way in life.

"I was confident that I would find my way, but I wasn't confident that I would have the career that I've had," said Humm, who practices his art at Eleven Madison Park in New York.

"And actually, to be honest, when I started cooking, I didn't know so much about chefs and what can be achieved. I just knew I loved food. I loved to be around the kitchen. And I knew with food, you make people happy, and you can, you know, it's pretty much instant satisfaction."

The Right Stuffing

A native of Switzerland, Humm, who says he remembers dishes by the smell, found himself in the kitchen from an early age. As a 5-year-old, he remembers the aroma of his mother's jam.

Check out these seasonal recipes from Daniel Humm.

"My mom would always make a lot of different jams. ...I love peaches and she would make the most amazing peach jam. And I remember when she was cooking it ... because the whole smell of these peaches go through the whole house, and even outside," he said.

"It became a game that when I would walk inside the house, to guess what, what the food is today, or what the meal is today."

Humm was urged to follow in his father's footsteps and become an architect, but he immediately knew it was not his calling.

"My dad ... sent me to different architecture firms to do internships, at a very early age, maybe 10 years old. And, you know, I liked the lifestyle of the architects I've met, they always had nice cars, and they went to nice restaurants and were dressed nice. I like that, but then really seeing what they do in the office, I really did not like it at all."

Instead, Humm landed a three-year apprenticeship at the Hotel Baur au Lac in Zurich, where at age 14, he learned the foundations of his craft. Moving on to work at some of Switzerland's famed hotels and restaurants, Humm earned his first position as executive chef at Gasthaus zum Gupf, where he received a Michelin Star at age 25 and garnered much praise for his classic European style and sophistication.

Then Humm was off to San Francisco, where he was hired as executive chef at the high-end restaurant Campton Place. A newcomer to the U.S. culinary scene, Humm was nominated for the James Beard Foundation's Rising Star Award in 2004 and 2005.

Platelist: Daniel Humm

At Campton Place, Humm tackled his first Thanksgiving meal -- which he admits was a bit of a dud.

"I thought I could reinvent the wheel and, you know...just very elaborate, an elaborate meal but in the end of the day, people were asking, 'Where's my cranberry sauce?' or 'Where's my stuffing?' or 'Where's my sweet potatoes?'" he said.

"That made me wake up a little bit and say, you know, if something is tradition, you can't change it, you just got to go with it. You can do your spin on it, but you can't change people. ...I think that was a good lesson for me to learn."

Despite the flop, Humm has come to love the holiday.

"I love Thanksgiving because it's a holiday that is for everybody," he told "Nightline." "It doesn't matter where you are from or what religion you are. It's a time to celebrate and to come together and enjoy it with good food and with family."

Humm Hits New York City

Humm left Campton Place in 2006 and took his staff with him to New York, where he took the helm as executive chef of Danny Meyer's Eleven Madison Park.

"I visited New York before I came here, and I always felt this, just this special energy.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...