Behind the Scenes at Menton's Eleven Madison Park Dinner Extravaganza
On Saturday night, the team from New York’s venerable Eleven Madison Park (quick stats: four New York Times stars, three Michelin Guide stars) made a guest appearance at Barbara Lynch’s fine-dining destination for a five-course guest meal as part of a book tour promoting their new eponymous cookbook (preview the gorgeous food-porn photography here). For those curious, the luxurious menu included brioche toasts topped with uni and shaved foie gras, creamy celery root soup topped with barely-cooked strips of langoustine tail and icy green apple “snow,” fat lobster tails with lemongrass sabayon and celery, black truffle-stuffed chicken, and warm sweet potato beignets with chocolate ganache.
Before the evening began, I sat down in Menton’s swanky lounge to chat with Eleven Madison Park general manager Will Guidara and chef Daniel Humm (who recently took over the ownership of the restaurant from hospitality guru Danny Meyer). They were upbeat and energetic, despite having spent the night before getting the full Barbara Lynch experience with stops at Drink, B&G Oysters, The Butcher Shop, and what Guidara called a “down home Southie bar.” Read ahead to find out more about the duo’s book tour, their take on Menton, and their thoughts on the importance of fine dining in today’s economy. In the audio slideshow above, get a behind-the-scenes peek at the evening, shot and edited by local food photographer Justin Ide.
Why did you choose Boston as part of your book tour?
Will Guidara: We tried to think about the cities with restaurants that we really respected, and the people that we really enjoy. We work really really hard, and it’s important that we also have fun when we are doing this sort of thing. We have so much respect for what this group is doing, and specifically this restaurant and the ambition and the passion that exists here; you don’t see that at many restaurants—the drive and the pushing. And we think Barbara [Lynch] is awesome. We see a lot of Boston people in our restaurants—it felt like a great place to go, and one of the right places to go.
How did you decide the menu? Is it different in every city?
Daniel Humm: It is. it’s just our favorite dishes, and all of our dishes are from the book.
WG: The book is organized seasonally, so where this tour fell we were obviously looking at the second half of the book. And for [Daniel], it’s obviously a chance for him to show the different cities what we’re all about.
How would you compare the environment at Menton to Eleven Madison Park?
WG: We have a lot less to do here [laughs]. The team here has been remarkable. We have done events at several different places, where it’s been very hectic when we arrive, and here it’s been very easy. One of the things that’s really important to us is that we travel, that we get away from the restaurant once a year and go on these big trips. We go out to other restuarants in other cultures and we see things and experience things. But those trips have almost always been to Europe, or to Asia, or to places other than America. On the book tour we have had the opportunity to really spend time getting perspective on what is happening in America. It’s been amazing to go to Chicago, to LA, to San Francisco, to Seattle, to Boston—it’s inspiring.
Menton is rare here, especially given the recent openings in town where everything is getting away from white tablecloths and is pushing towards the casual. What’s the importance of fine dining, in the face of this trend?
WG: I think we we’re kind of that restaurant in New York, where although we didn’t open it from scratch, we kind of bucked that trend by taking a restaurant and where a lot of people were changing the direction of their restaurants to be more casual, we went the exact opposite direction. I think there’s an incredible sense of nobility in fine dining, because I think there’s a need for people to have these places where they can either celebrate life, or forget about life. And although the world is becoming more casual and less and less of these restaurants are opening, it makes it even more important for the ones that still do. I believe the world needs fine dining—not exclusively, but it’s like anything; if everyone becomes more casual, then a part of our culture dies. So I think it’s something to celebrate when people take that risk in the economy.