Materializing Like Elves - The Power of a Restaurant
Two years ago Will Guidara and Daniel Humm, the dynamic duo behind New York’s fêted dining destinations Eleven Madison Park, Nomad New York and Nomad Bar, had to close for a four- month renovation of their wildly successful (three stars from Michelin, four stars from the New York Times) accolade-bedecked restaurant. “We needed to find a way to hold onto our team. Team is everything!” Will cheers and chants. Necessity gave birth to a move east for the summer, and like a good New Yorker, they wound up with a footprint in the Hamptons’ sand and EMP Summer House was born. Well, you can’t stay in the Hamptons year-round and “the culture of our restaurant,” Will describes, “cannot be created with just seasonal staff.” So here they are...they’ve found a Winter House...75 employees relocated and materializing like elves right in Aspen mountain’s backyard within the world-renowned St. Regis property.
Winter House has opened for the season and there are many ways to experience this “mutually beneficial” pop-up that feels nothing short of the house landing on the witch in The Wizard of Oz. Chef Daniel Humm is an avid snowboarder from Switzerland and Guidara, a skier; both got the gist right away that Aspen is the perfect stage for their legendary culinary performance. So happy staff in tow and it’s curtain call! This is no smoke and mirrors dining experience. This is the culmination of owners and team working together under the guiding principle and faith in “the restorative power of food...actually, legitimately nourishing peoples’ bodies and souls,” Will promises. The secret ingredients to their success he gives right away as “food, the theatre of the restaurant, and the hospitality of the staff. People need a place to connect, to put their phone down. We get to help people celebrate important moments and help forget the really difficult ones for a moment.” So train your palette on the fruits de mer, veal schnitzel, chicken Zurich-style, trout meunier and lobster thermidor and you have what Guidara stresses is “my favorite menu of any restaurant we’ve opened!”
There are 4 ways to take in and taste this award-winning show. 1-Dinner is served inside seven nights a week, including a kitchen in full spotlight and baked Alaska performed by staff who know they’ve got the best job in the business. 2-Ten yurts have appeared in the courtyard, “a bunch of little, private, heated dining rooms” underneath the stars serving three fondue options (“Alpine, a roasted lamb feast and Chinoise-a Swiss riff on a hot-pot,” explains Will with a gleam in his eye). Après ski to the yurts for option 3 or come inside for an accessibly-priced Aspen requirement- the bar menu. Expect an equally unique experience at the hands of the bartenders (Eleven Madison Park was recognized as “Best Restaurant Bar in the World”) like Tre Gerbitz who can entertain even the non-drinker as he engagingly bandies with his spot-on bar parle, “if alcohol is a shackle to your craft, how good are you?” Will and Daniel know the importance of people and place, thus keeping options and seats open for locals is an important ingredient in their overall vision and ventures.
Guidara chose to follow his father’s footsteps as restaurateur versus drummer when the spectacle of canard served table-side wowed him at the Four Seasons with his father’s Brasserie just downstairs. He still picks the playlist to set the mood for his dining environments, leaning towards Neil Young and the Allman Brothers for Aspen. There is no shortage of emphasis on the magic of it all and Aspen is a place where magical moments can be found from the nature outside to the colorful parade of passers-by. It’s a match made in heaven. They chose Aspen: for the love of their staff, growing with them and keeping them together (many of their staff’s lauded careers have grown from the ground up - “70 of our 90 managers started as a food-runner or cook at Eleven Madison Park”), for the love of an audacious challenge, for the love of food and how it connects us. People, place and food that makes us feel good, feel present with each other, return to the childlike wonder of it all, and want to come back again. It’s the recipe of a lifetime.
On his playlist: Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Sly and the Family Stone, Neil Young, The Band, Buffalo Springfield
On his bedside: Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead