Chef Daniel Humm on What His Mom Taught Him About Sourcing Ingredients

Daniel-HummA native of Switzerland, Daniel Humm, executive chef at Eleven Madison Park, knew from an early age that his true passion was cooking. The son of an architect, Daniel took his inherited sense of structure and design and applied it to the kitchen, but he learned the importance of sourcing ingredients from his mother, Brigitte. “My mom was a stay-at-home mom and a great cook. Living in a small town surrounded by farms, she always paid a lot of attention to where she purchased ingredients. She knew who had the best milk, the best carrots, and the best eggs,” he says. “On rainy days, the farm-fresh lettuce would be kind of dirty, and, as a child, I didn’t understand the point of getting this lettuce you had to wash five or six times, and she would say, ‘When you taste it, you will it understand the difference.’ At an early age, then, my mother helped me understand the importance of where and how you shop — and today I appreciate that even more.”

While there’s not a particular dish on his current menu that comes from his mother, Chef Humm, who helped Eleven Madison Park earn its first Michelin star and who recently won a James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: New York City, says, “It’s the whole thing my mother showed me. We are so focused on letting individual ingredients shine. If a carrot or a leek is on a plate, we want to source it the best way and make sure that it really tastes like a leek. It’s about the pure taste of food.”

Growing up, Mother’s Day was a day for dining out. He remembers, “For Mother’s Day at our house, that was the only day when my mom wouldn’t cook. That was the day we would go out and enjoy a meal at a restaurant. My brothers and sisters and I would make breakfast that day, and then we would go out for lunch or dinner so that way my mom had nothing to worry about.”