Tips from Above: Chef Daniel Humm’s Perfect Saturday in New York

This article is part of a guide to New York by FT Globetrotter

New York has been my home for 15 years and I’m always excited to discover new parts of it. Fortunately for me, this city is an inexhaustible source of inspiration for two of my great passions: gastronomy and art. And while I savor the relentless energy of the city, I also find it imperative to seek out moments of calm. For that, I go to one of Manhattan’s green spaces to exercise my body (with a good run) or my mind (for a game of chess with a fellow New Yorker) — or to one of the temples gastronomy for a good omakase.

Here I’ve shared my itinerary for a perfect Saturday or day off in NYC.

Stop 1: Run in Central Park

Humm starts the day with a run around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park ©Getty Images

We’ve had a running club at my Eleven Madison Park restaurant for many years, and a few times a week I prioritize a workout alone or with my team members. I live downtown, but Central Park and the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir are my favorite places to run. I often meet my chef, Dominique Roy, for a revitalizing run and some original ideas. These moments allow us to see our professional purpose with fresh eyes. Our favorite route is a few loops around the reservoir which ends up being a perfect 5km. We are currently training for the New York City Marathon, which I plan to run every year until my legs fail.

Stop 2: Breakfast and coffee (post-workout)

The facade of Fabrique Bakery in New York

The New York outpost of Swedish bakery Fabrique. . .

Cinnamon buns at La Fabrique Boulangerie

. . . where Humm likes to watch his famous cinnamon rolls being made in the open kitchen

After a workout, I usually think of two things: coffee and food. I’m not usually a big breakfast lover, but when I feel like a treat, I go to Fabrique Bakery on West 14th Street. The Swedish bakery is famous for its delicious cardamom and cinnamon buns. I love snacking in the back of the cafe, near the open kitchen, and watching the experts roll and twist the dough that will eventually be baked into buns.

For coffee, I head to Madman Espresso on University Place, where my usual order is a large oat milk cappuccino to go (the stronger the better). Marco Vacchi opened this cafe a few years ago, and it’s conveniently located around the corner from my apartment, so it was easy to become a regular.

Stop 3: Washington Square Park

Humm enjoys playing chess in Washington Square Park © Cole Wilson

I tend to stroll through Washington Square Park daily, and whether it’s for a short walk or 45 minutes of concentration and chess board conversation with Rahim, the king of New York chess hustlers, the park makes me feel feel alive. (Anyone who visits the park should ask for his board.) I met Rahim years ago, and I can always count on him for a game of chess, his wise words, and his shared laughs. My daughters also learned the game, and playing chess together is something we look forward to as a family. After my inevitable loss, I’ll head to my next stop while listening to a podcast. One of my favorites right now is Armchair Expert, hosted by Dax Shepard and Monica Padman. Their genuine care and interest in the guests they interview really shine through, and listening in every week is something on the to-do list.

Stop 4: Queens

Sculptures in the garden of the Noguchi Museum
The garden of the Noguchi Museum, where Humm was inspired by the work of the late Japanese-American sculptor © The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, NY / Artists Rights Society–DACS. Photo by Nicolas Chevalier.

On weekends, I do my best to get out of the house, especially when the weather is nice. Art is one of my deepest passions, so most often it involves a gallery or a museum. The Noguchi Museum in Queens is a frequent stop and the perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city and its millions of people. I feel connected to Isamu Noguchi’s work in the way he used organic shapes and natural materials, which is very similar to my approach to cooking. He pulled the beauty out of stone and wood, and I’m inspired by what he was able to do with such a limited palette. When we decided to switch my restaurant to a plant-based menu, Noguchi’s carvings were among the works I referred to. They are subtle and powerful, and I could spend all afternoon studying them and sitting in the peaceful museum garden.

Not far from the museum is chef Cosme Aguilar’s southern Mexican restaurant, Casa Enrique, which earned a Michelin star. Whenever I’m in Long Island City, I stop in for a spicy enchilada Margarita and Doña Blanca, which is made with roasted poblano peppers. The restaurant’s lively and energetic atmosphere, combined with thoughtful and delicious dishes, makes it a place I want to eat on my day off.

Stop 5: Union Square Green Market

Stalls at Union Square Greenmarket
Stokes Farm is one of Humm’s favorite stalls in the Union Square Greenmarket, which he calls “home” © G Ronald Lopez/ZUMA Press Wire/Alamy

Union Square Greenmarket is like a second home to me. I have been going there for years and during that time I have developed great friendships with the farmers and the people who work in their stands. I love stopping at Norwich Meadows to see what Zaid and his wife Haifa have grown with their team in upstate New York. They have incorporated Egyptian farming techniques into their farm near Syracuse and they produce some of the best eggplant I have tasted. I always keep a jar of something fermented from Hawthorne Valley Biodynamic Farm in my fridge (it’s love is my top choice), and Stokes Farm is another of my favorite family farms.

Stop 6: Morning screening of ‘Macbeth’

Daniel Craig on stage in 'Macbeth' at the Longacre Theater
Daniel Craig in ‘Macbeth’ at the Longacre Theater © Joan Marcus

I had been waiting for this limited edition of Macbeth for a long time and grabbed the tickets as soon as they became available. Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga are past masters in their art. Performances by the entire cast are deft and haunting – paying homage to classic tragedy while adding inflections of modern relevance to Shakespeare’s lingering themes. My favorite thing about matinees is that you have the whole evening to discuss the show over a quiet dinner.

Last stop: Dinner

A vegetable dish on a table at Kajitsu restaurant in New York

Kajitsu cuisine is inspired by Japanese shojin cuisine, whose origins date back to Zen Buddhism

Chef Hiroki Abe of Katjisu at work

Katjisu’s Hiroki Abe at work. “I marvel at his creativity with vegetables,” says Humm

Dinner at Kajitsu, where chef Hiroki Abe and his team concoct the finest vegetarian dishes in the style of Japanese shojin cuisine, derived from Zen Buddhism. It’s a 10 course omakase which changes monthly; every bite is prepared and presented with such care, and I marvel at the creativity with which Chef Abe handles the vegetables. This is where I first tried nama-fu, a protein made from wheat gluten and rice flour. I find this particularly impressive because these simple ingredients can take on a variety of textures and flavors. I especially love it when given a super intense umami mushroom profile. I usually end with a cup of Ippodo green tea – the perfect way to end the day.

Tell us how you would spend your perfect Saturday in New York in the comments

Daniel Humm will speak at the US edition of the FT Weekend Festival on Saturday May 7 in Washington DC and online. For tickets, go to ftweekendfestival.com

Leave a Comment