This is the second cookbook by Daniel Humm and Will Guidara on my crowded bookshelves. The partners (business, not romantic) are better known as the chef (Humm), restaurateur (Guidara) and co-owners of Eleven Madison Park, a Michelin three-star restaurant in New York, which, in the latest World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, came in at No 3 and also won the Art of Hospitality award.
After the success of EMP Eleven Madison Park, the two branched out into more casual dining with the NoMad Restaurant in The NoMad Hotel. It wasn’t a decision they took lightly. In the introduction to The NoMad Cookbook , Guidara writes, “Some of our favourite restaurants are those that, once opened, are fully realized and will live forever without change. But EMP is not like that. It’s a project that we will never be done with, a concept that is always in motion. Still, in 2010, after four years of very focused attention, we realized that it was time for us to begin the process of building our second restaurant.
“The prospect of another restaurant is so exciting, but scary as hell. Your second act can determine if you’re the next Rolling Stones or the next Vanilla Ice. We knew we wanted the new place to be more casual than EMP – its louder and looser sibling – but that was really all …”
They found what they were looking for in a project that was to be the NoMad Hotel.
Guidara continues, “Back in the day, the grand hotels were the center of all things social in New York City. People would flock to The Waldorf, The Plaza, The Palace, or The Carlyle when they sought a place to sleep, to dine, to drink, to commiserate. They were places where native New Yorkers and travelers alike would come to form community … But at some point, it stopped being cool to hang out at hotels. Even restaurants in hotels fought fiercely for their brand independence, coming up with their own names and often adding separate entrances. New York City’s great halls of community faded from local popularity, becoming places for tourists to visit. We wanted The NoMad to change that – to be beautiful, rich and luxurious, but fun, cool, and accessible … EMP was attempting to be fine dining that was less stuffy. The NoMad would be a casual restaurant that was more composed … We pictured a restaurant where you could have a three-hour meal or a few too many cocktails and some tasty snacks; a place where you could eat fried chicken and drink champagne or feast on foie gras and savour Sauternes. All this while listening to the Rolling Stones and remember that the whole point of this dining out thing is to connect with other human beings around a table, sharing good food, good drink, and good conversation.”
The food at Eleven Madison Park is fine dining, and Eleven Madison Park: The Cookbook reflects that – it’s not unusual for the recipes to have eight or more elements for one dish. The NoMad Cookbook, on the other hand, is more accessible and playful (it has a separate cocktail recipe book hidden in a back panel). Yes, many of the recipes have multiple elements, but others are much easier. The recipes are tempting and include flatbread with spring onions and fingerling potatoes; fried chicken with chilli lime yogurt; peekytoe crab with daikon and Granny Smith apple; mackerel with beets and wasabi; sweetbreads pan roasted with spring vegetables; whole roasted chicken with black truffle brioche stuffing; and lemon tart with ricotta and almonds.