When the influential World's 50 Best Restaurants comes out with its new list in April, don't be surprised to find Manhattan's Eleven Madison Park at the top, writes Jeff Gordinier in Esquire. His profile, however, isn't about the four-star restaurant exactly, but its 40-year-old chef and co-owner, Daniel Humm. The native of Switzerland is already considered the best chef working in America, according to the aforementioned list, and culinary watchers generally say it's a matter of when, not if, he will ascend to No. 1 in the world. As for his dishes, don't expect exotic ingredients, or as chef and friend Bo Bech puts it colorfully, "He's not trying to f--- your mouth with things you've never heard of." In fact, Gordinier writes that his menu reflects a "make it nice" business mantra ("a torrent of blue flame will pour down the white slopes of your Baked Alaska") and his current interest in minimalism.
"Unlike many of his culinary contemporaries, restlessly fermenting and foraging in a quest for new flavors and ingredients, Humm fixates on the same ones—white ones, pale ones: apples, fennel, lobster, parsnips," he writes. It sounds plain but tastes anything but. The story, however, digs more into Humm the person. He says he has a passion for cooking, which sounds like something all chefs say—until he clarifies that he's referring to the German word "leidenschaft," which essentially means to "enjoy suffering." Humm's own life has been filled with it, from a painful breakup of an early marriage, to a near-death crash as a competitive cyclist, to another near-death crash in an SUV while heading to a farmers' market, even to his grueling workouts every morning. ("It's all about pain. It's about endurance.") Click for the full story, which suggests we'll hear much more about Humm as his business empire expands. (Read more chef stories.)