How involved are the recipes Daniel Humm presents in Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook (Little, Brown and Company; $50)? When this New York City fine dining standout's then-owner Danny Meyer hired Humm as chef back in 2006, he cut the number of seats from 180 to 120. Why? Meyer knew Humm's dishes had so many moving pieces and parts they couldn't be made at the pace a larger-scale restaurant requires.
It was the right move to make. You'll see why when you go through this 384-page book. On display, in all its glory, is the food that enabled Eleven Madison Park (EMP) to rise from middle-of-the-pack status (just two stars from the New York Times when Humm took over) to the top of the heap in 2011: three stars from Michelin, four from the Times, Best Restaurant from the Beard Awards. Yes, these dishes are complex, but they are strikingly original and imaginative, too. If you're looking for the benchmark of contemporary American cuisine, start here.
Humm says he and co-author Will Guidara, EMP's general manager, kept accessibility at the forefront while writing their book. Would readers actually be able to reproduce EMP dishes by simply following their directions?
More to the point, can you? “The simple answer is yes-ish,” Humm writes. “Many recipes require a significant time commitment, a certain level of skill, a reasonably equipped kitchen and a healthy dose of persistence.”
At least there's not a lot of molecular gastronomy involved, although you'll do best if you have sous vide equipment and know how to work with liquid nitrogen. Staff-wise, you'll need a small army of sous chefs and line cooks to produce these meals in a busy restaurant setting. Humm's team at EMP is that big; yours probably isn't.
Yet you'll be eager to tackle these recipes once you see how Humm's food looks. His deconstructed-style presentations are imaginative and precise, packed with multiple elements. Even then only the truly ambitious will attempt to reproduce even one of these multi-step recipes in its entirety.
But that's OK. You can derive great value from this book by adapting any of its hundreds of smaller sub-recipe components for your operation. Even scratching the surface of what Eleven Madison Park has to offer will be enough to elevate almost any restaurant's cuisine. It's that good.