Daniel Humm of 11 Madison Park on Why and How He Loves to Travel

An exclusive interview with the chef/owner of one of New York City’s most talked-about restaurants.

Simple Pleasures: Daniel Humm

Daniel Humm

Photo by Francesco Tonelli

Daniel Humm runs one of the world’s most vaunted kitchens, but when the Swiss-born executive chef/owner of New York City’s Eleven Madison Park is on the road, he blisses out on the little things—be it a jogging route in a new city or a decent slice of pizza. Read on for Humm’s top places and favorite tastes from his travels.

Let’s play spin the globe—name the one place you’ve always wanted to go.

Iceland has always intrigued me. It’s one of those places that I hear wonderful things about, but I know so little about the place itself. It’s a bit mysterious and I think that’s one of the characteristics about it that draws me to it.

What’s your spirit city? (Where do you want to return to over and over?)

Lourmarin in Provence takes my breath away every time I visit—and I do return every year. I love to discover new places, but there is something about Lourmarin that pulls me back every time. Everything about it brings me peace and joy, whether it’s the landscape and fresh air, the people and their jovial spirit, or even the simple way in which I’m able to relax there.

Do you have a travel ritual?

Part of being a chef means you must accept repetition, and one habit of mine that travels with me wherever I go is the need to run. I’m a firm believer in living an active life and running in a new city is one of life’s simple pleasures. I get an amazing perspective of the city that might not have been experienced otherwise.

Do you maintain any routines from home while traveling or does it all go out the window?

I always exercise, whether it’s for a run, or a long bike ride if I have my bike with me. I developed a real appreciation and love for routines as a young cook and it’s definitely influenced the way in which I live my life.

Sorry, you only get to eat one regional cuisine for the rest of your life. What is it?

If I had to choose one cuisine it would be Italian. I love the simplicity of the cuisine, the soulfulness of it, and it’s one of the cuisines that I most love eating. Pizza also happens to be one of my favorite foods and I could live off of that for quite some time.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone traveling abroad for the first time?

It’s very important to be open when traveling abroad. If you visit a new city with preconceived notions or thoughts about the place you are visiting then you may be limited in how you can immerse yourself in the culture. Go in with an open mind and you can really understand and fall in love with the place.

Describe your travel personality in three words.

Spontaneous, Relaxed, Curious.

Are your trips very planned, or very spontaneous?

They tend to be very spontaneous, with little in the way of planning once I touch down in a new city.

The Northern Lights above the Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel in Iceland, where Humm wants to travel next.

The Northern Lights above the Ion Luxury Adventure Hotel in Iceland, where Humm wants to travel next.

What’s the one travel souvenir you’d save in a fire?

My travel memories are what’s more important than any possessions I may have picked up along the way.

What book/movie most inspired you to travel?

Any American movie I watched as a child; they all made me want to explore America. I was always very curious and intrigued.

Who’s your ideal travel partner?

I love traveling with my kids because I get to see the world in a different light when I’m with them. They are still young, so they see the world very differently, and it is an important reminder to me about the simple things in life.

Which travel experience do you prefer: plugged in or unplugged?

I prefer to travel with an unplugged mentality.

What’s a custom from another culture that you’d love to implement in your life back home?

Siestas. We work very hard in the restaurant environment and it’s nice to have a little bit of a break every now and again to reset.

What’s the first thing you seek out in a new place?

It’s always about food and that next meal no matter where I go. I’m always looking for the most delicious dish that is rooted in the place I’m visiting. Not only does it provide inspiration, but it also allows me to broaden my understanding of the culture.

What’s the one thing you indulge in on a trip that you don’t at home?

I tend to eat much more when traveling!

What’s your first travel memory?

Piling into my family’s tiny Fiat as a kind for the multi-hour trip to the south of France. I always looked forward to that trip, knowing what was awaiting us at the end of the journey. Traveling nowadays is certainly different, but when I’m with my kids, it brings me back to those moments when I was young.

Jennifer Flowers is an award-winning journalist and the senior deputy editor of Afar.
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