Daniel Humm and Will Guidara couldn’t hide their excitement. The chef and restaurateur had every reason to be ebullient. It was late summer 2017 and the award-winning fine dining duo was on top of the culinary world with plenty more to come. Earlier that year, the jewel of their burgeoning empire, Eleven Madison Park, was named the World’s Best Restaurant. Despite that, they’d closed EMP to remake it anew and were getting ready for a grand reopening. Even with the restaurant closed, they remained busy, having opened a successful EMP pop-up in the Hamptons that summer. And now, they were in Los Angeles, ready to finish the slightly-more-casual NoMad’s expansion to LA. NoMad Las Vegas was still to come, as were plans for expansion to London. They had a lot to look forward to.
Less than two years, that excitement is gone and so is their partnership. First reported by Amanda Kludt at Eater, Humm and Guidara are splitting up. The Michelin three-star chef Humm will buy out his front-of-house compatriot Guidara, and take control of the parent company, Make It Nice, which owns Eleven Madison Park and NoMad.
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“It’s been an incredible run and I think we both learned a lot from each other, but we also have evolved in different ways,” Humm told the New York Times. “We’re extremely proud. We just came to the conclusion in the end that what would be best for the company is if I continue to run it.”
In an email to staff, the two said they’d looked into dividing the company between them, but couldn’t find a workable solution. But they also let their employees know this wasn’t costing them their jobs. “We do want to address two immediate concerns you might be having,” they wrote in the memo. “First, none of our restaurants are closing. Second, none of the new projects that are in the pipeline are going to be cancelled.”
Neither Humm nor Guidara have detailed what led to their storied union to dissolve so surprisingly other than that there had been some tensions for some time about differing visions for the future of the company. Once the divorce becomes official, Guidara will start his own hospitality company.
It’ll be a strange sight to not see the two of them together at the helm of their restaurant group. For more than a decade Humm and Guidara’s fortunes have been inextricably linked. They teamed up at Eleven Madison Park back when restaurateur Danny Meyer still owned it. In 2011, Humm and Guidara found financing to buy the New York brasserie from Meyer and turn it into a gastronomic temple, leaning on Humm’s minimalistic style and Guidara’s effusive approach to service. The combo of the two led the restaurant to three Michelin stars and the top spot on the influential, but flawed, World’s 50 Best list.
In 2012, they launched the NoMad together, a restaurant and bar inside a hotel of the same name. It became EMP’s more casual cousin with an a la carte menu, but still some legendary dishes, like the roast chicken for two with foie gras and black truffles. That’s the restaurant they eyed for expansion, opening an LA location in January 2018 and in Las Vegas in November.
Now, the two who built their careers together will have to see if they can succeed apart.