The cuisine that reinventes itself 

The history of New York’s cuisine and food culture is endlessly fascinating to me. It inspires me to think beyond the walls of Eleven Madison Park to the culinary traditions of the City itself and the ingredients grown here. This source of inspiration has infused me, our restaurant, and our menu with a distinct and definitive sense of place. At Eleven Madison Park, we pull our guests into a New York story, not by using words or images like Paul Auster or Woody Allen, but by bringing ingredients and traditions to the table that were born here. An entire genre of food has come into fruition in New York; the egg cream, delicatessen meats, smoked fish, potato chips, and the oyster pan roast are just a few. These dishes tell the history of an immigrant culture, a history we all know and love. But, if you look closely, it also tells us the story of New York as an agricultural center and the influence this had on the many chefs and restaurants that first served diners here.

New York City is a special city, with its diversity of people, culture, and cuisines. And there’s an immediacy and accessibility to all this variety. You can get almost anything you want simply by hoping on the subway or hailing a cab. When I go from one neighborhood to another, I can feel as if I’m in a different city, or even a different country. It’s one of the coolest things about living here. I moved to New York over eight years ago and have explored the city tirelessly, but I still always find something new, even on a street I’ve walked a thousand times. But sometimes the newness lies in the classics, and when it comes to restaurants, this is especially true. It’s not always about discovering the hot, new restaurant that opened last week, but stumbling upon the old ale house that’s been open for almost a hundred years, only to discover it serves the best burger you’ve ever had in your life.





The food scene in New York is always evolving, with new restaurants constantly opening up. But I love that we still have places that have been around for many decades, sometimes more than a century. These restaurants provide a connection with the past. 

This connection is integral to me and to my partner, Will Guidara, in our efforts to understand the evolution of New York cuisine and share that with others. Ironically, in our drive to constantly find ways to reinvent ourselves, our dishes, and the experience we offer our guests, sometimes we must look back in time. Take, for example, the Waldorf Salad that we introduced for our Winter menu. It’s a dish rooted in New York, one that’s been replicated and served across the globe for over a century. It was created by maître d’hotel Oscar Tschirky of the Waldorf Hotel in Manhattan in 1896, and it is such a simple, but iconic creation. Using that as our inspiration, we created a unique dish for our guests that’s both familiar, but unlike anything they’ve ever tasted or seen. It’s a reinvention, but without losing a sense of where the original came from.

The choices we make about what we serve our guests are guided by something that is often overlooked about New York: This city has tremendous access to fresh ingredients. Yes, anything can be flown or brought here from other parts of the world, but we have access to world-class farms, just outside of New York. Only a car ride away from our concrete jungle, you can find miles of lush farmland, pastures with beautiful heritage breed livestock, and bodies of fresh and salt water brimming with seafood. New York has a rich history of agriculture that is centuries-old. It was once a thriving area to build a farm, and to raise crops or livestock. 

Over time, New York became less known for its agriculture than its commerce, but the devotion of farmers and artisans across New York is bringing this history back to the fore and it’s very exciting. (Just take a walk through The Union Square Farmers’ Market on a Saturday afternoon and you’ll see exactly what I mean.) I was amazed when I moved the New York to find ingredients that rival the best in the world so readily available. It’s crucial we support the hard working individuals who devote their lives to producing such extraordinary things and they are one of the reasons we decided to embark on our last cookbook, I Love New York: Ingredients and Recipes. We wanted to celebrate those who commit themselves to growing an ingredient, to creating something, and to doing it as well as they do.

Since moving to America to work at Campton Place in San Francisco and then in moving to New York to be the Chef of Eleven Madison Park, I know my philosophy has evolved even further. The root of my cuisine still resides in those early experiences in Switzerland, in cooking and eating seasonally and locally, and in my time spent with Chef Rabaey, but now I’ve been able to develop my own style, my own opinion, here in New York. It all starts with the best ingredients, all those ingredients I’ve discovered that I can get from New York, not just in it. It’s been essential to me that the perfect ingredient be the focal point of a dish. At Eleven Madison Park this has been evident in the food, even early on. We’ve always focused on beautiful products, and excellent technique. What’s changed is that I’ve learned the importance of place, of rooting our food firmly in the history and traditions of New York, while taking full advantage of its agricultural richness. 

A great example of this is our sea salt, which we get from Amagansett Sea Salt Company on Long Island. I tasted the salt years ago and was astonished at how clean and pure it tasted – it tasted like the Atlantic. 



I reached out to the company to see if we could source more of the salt for our restaurant and the owner didn’t think he’d be able to produce enough to meet our needs. I was so devoted and determined to use this product and support his business that we arranged for our chefs to visit the Amagansett Sea Salt Company to help harvest more salt. I am proud to say, we’ve used only Amagansett as our finishing salt ever since. It was very rewarding to see this team effort come together. And I love knowing that our guests get that little reminder of how close we are to one of the world’s great oceans, while sitting in our dining room.

This spirit of reinvention permeates Eleven Madison Park, along side an emphasis on precision, balance and focus. You will see this in the kitchen, on the plate, and in the dining room. But what I’ve discovered is that it takes much more than these characteristics to make a restaurant truly excellent. I remember one of our first reviews after Will Guidara and I joined Eleven Madison Park in 2006.

The review was by Moira Hodgson for the New York Observer. It was a good review, better than I think we deserved, but there was one part that really stuck out. The critic had said she wished we had been a little more “Miles Davis.”

I wasn’t really sure what she meant. Will and I were fans of Miles’ music, but we didn’t know how a restaurant could be like him. We began researching Miles’ career, studying his music, and reading all we could about him as a musician. We learned that he was never afraid to change, that he always pushed the boundaries of what jazz could be. Inspired by his greatness and his fearlessness, we came up with a list of 11 words to describe him and his approach to his craft: cool, endless reinvention, inspired, forward moving, fresh, collaborative, spontaneous, vibrant, adventurous, light, and innovative. It’s these words that we now have printed and framed in the kitchen. They are words we’ve woven into the culture of our restaurant and they have helped us as we’ve evolved our vision for Eleven Madison Park.

Other times we look to get inspiration from outside our industry. We look to companies like Apple, American Express, and Jet Blue to see how they managed their brands, how they continued to stay relevant, and how they led their staff and maintained their image as icons in their respective industries. This helped us learn how to create goals as a company and I believe it is really one of the major ways we are able to define ourselves and stand out. Everyone here contributes and everyone here provides ideas that shape what we do.










All of this translates to what we aim to do every service; offer amazing food, an experience for our guests unlike any other, and make sure it’s fun. We understand that all our guests choose to dine with us and they could go to hundreds of other restaurants and it’s important for us to make sure that every time they dine with us, we make them feel at home, feel special, and feel like they’re right in the heart of it all – New York City.



Eleven Madison Park

11 Madison Ave, New York,

NY 10010, Estados Unidos

Tel. +1 212-889-0905


Text: Daniel Humm ± Photo: Francesco Tonelli