I was born in Switzerland and grew up in Schinznach-Dorf, a tiny farming town half an hour from Zurich. My dad is an architect and my mom is an amazing cook and baker. She makes this sweet brioche, these rolls with bacon in them and an incredible plum-and-almond cake that I would die for. What she taught me has had a deep effect. At my house, nothing is bought premade at a chain grocery store. For a perfect breakfast, I would come to Arcade Bakery in Manhattan (above). I love the sourdough breads and the ham-and-cheese croissants, and they make incredible pizza. Arcade’s bread is what I have at home. The quality is incredible, and it’s done with love and care.You can see the owner, Roger Gural, working in the kitchen. I like the wood, the aesthetic and simplicity of this place. The design is almost Swiss, in a way. If I could choose any place to be located near where I live, it would be this place.
I could go to Elkano, near San Sebastián, Spain, and eat the whole roasted turbot. The way they cook the turbot is magical – over an open fire with the skin on. It’s one of the best things you can eat. I didn’t eat fish that much as a child in Switzerland where I grew up. We were landlocked. We had fish from the rivers and the lakes but no fish from the ocean. The first time I had lobster, I was probably 15 years old. It was rich, salty and meaty, like tasting the ocean in one bite. Or I could go to the Sportsman on the edge of Whitstable in Kent, England. It’s an old pub, very simple, but soulful and beautiful. They have the most amazing butter and lamb. On one side of the restaurant you see the ocean and on the other side you see farmland.
One of the most special places for me to go for tea is Claridge’s in London. I would have the sandwich selection and the scones with clotted cream and Marco Polo gelée [jam infused with bergamot and vanilla]. The ambience is very British. It’s like a ceremony. When I travel, what I look for is the food a place is known for. I don’t want to have something I could have anywhere else. Cuisine is the intersection of history and agriculture.
I would go to La Colombe d’Or in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France. I always spent summers in the south of France in Provence, so that’s very important to me. I wouldn’t just go for the food – which is great – but for the experience. This is a place where Picasso and Chagall would come to make art. I would have the melon and ham, or the roasted fish and a glass of rosé. I like to drink the wines of the places I go to. The south of France has great wines. They’re not the most expensive, but they are the wines of the region. The restaurant has art by Miró, Matisse, Braque and Alexander Calder. I’ve been inspired by art all my life, especially by the minimalist artists such as Robert Ryman, Roni Horn or Lucio Fontana. I always wanted to make a dish with only two things on the plate. Two years ago, when I created a dish of celery root and black truffles – only two circles on the plate – I felt that I’d found myself as a chef.
Daniel Humm was talking to Patrick Cole