When then New York Observer critic Moira Hodgson ended an otherwise positive review of Eleven Madison Park by saying the restaurant and its new chef needed a “little Miles Davis” if it wanted to reach even higher highs, Daniel Humm (pictured, left) and his team took it to heart.
Instead of calling the writer to find out what she meant, the team scoured everything Miles Davis and came up with a list of what they thought the master represented. Along with a floor to ceiling photograph of Davis in the kitchen, the words they ascribed to him became the restaurant’s core values that are in a separate floor to ceiling poster. Having figured out what was missing, Swiss-born Humm has since realized his dream, buying the restaurant from legendary founder Danny Meyer and earning three Michelin stars.
Humm rewarded his success by buying a Blancpain watch. It had been his aspiration since as a child he recalled how his architect father celebrated achievement in his business buying a Blancpain.
Coincidentally, one of Humm’s early advocates at Eleven Madison Park was a former anti-trust attorney turned magazine editor. Jeffrey S. Kingston was Lead Counsel for Sun Microsystems when it sued Microsoft. The case was settled with $700 million to Sun by Microsoft to resolve antitrust issues and $900 million to resolve patent issues. Microsoft made an up-front payment of $350 million and Kingston decided to pursue full-time his passion for watches and wine.
Having spent more than a week a month in Belgium for the better part of 10 years leading the lawsuit (it was filed in the EU), Kingston had become a connoisseur of duck. And he was frustrated that he couldn’t find duck done right in the U.S. until he sampled Humm’s. In 2009 as Editor of Blancpain’s house magazine, Lettres du Brassus, Kingston penned a 12-page article on Humm, “The Quest for Duck Arrives in America.”
Kingston is well known with watch collectors for his seminars “Inside Basel & Geneva” so on the occasion of Humm being named “a friend of the brand,” Blancpain Executive Vice President Alain Delamuraz and US Director Adam Bossi (pictured, right) hosted a special dinner for the press at Eleven Madison Park with Kingston pairing food, wine and watches.
The evening began with a tour of the kitchen, run in French tradition, and a modern frozen version of the “Widow’s Kiss”. An interesting video comparing the similarities of watchmakers and chefs (http://www.blancpain.tv/video/4415400/a-passion-for-excellence) provided more justification for the upcoming feast.
With journalists spanning award-winning watch writers, culinary experts and lifestyle generalists like myself, Kingston was able to keep the attention of our diverse group, covering the difference between carousels and tourbillons (Kingston prefers the former); how Blancpain mastered the Chinese calendar (far more complicated than perpetual calendars); the brand’s fascination with the moonphase, and the storied history of its Fifty Fathoms dive watch, made for the French navy in the 1950s, the only piece of equipment not made in France. Extraordinary wines, daikon poached lobsters, maple foie gras and of course Humm’s signature duck interspersed with the watch commentary.
So what were the musician’s attributes that took Humm to Blancpain-owning heights, Kingston to duck he adored and our group to a memorable evening?
Cool. Endless. Reinvention. Inspired. Forward-Moving. Fresh. Collaborative. Spontaneous. Vibrant. Adventurous. Light. Innovative.
I’ll add “happy, satisfied and sleepy.”