Walk into Will Guidara's Manhattan apartment and your first instinct may be to remove your footwear. Not so fast. "Don't take off your shoes!" shouts Guidara, whose pristine wooden floors were finished just months ago. "And don't ask for a coaster either."
If anyone knows hospitality, it's Guidara, 36, general manager and co-owner of Eleven Madison Park, the Michelin three-star restaurant, and the NoMad, its marginally more casual offshoot, located inside the NoMad Hotel. With the NoMad—a contraction of "north of Madison Square Park"—Guidara and his business partner, chef Daniel Humm, have staked a serious claim in a long-overlooked and rapidly changing Manhattan neighborhood. Guidara figured he couldn't merely work there; he had to live in NoMad, too. "I believe in this neighborhood," says Guidara, standing at his apartment's massive front windows. "I had to be here. So I found this place, and I gutted the whole thing."
Guidara's goal in remodeling was to create an extraordinarily open space with the kitchen as the centerpiece. He wanted it "designed in such a way [that] people hanging out and people cooking could feel like they were all together in the same room." To that end, his two ranges—an induction cooktop and teppanyaki griddle, both by Gaggenau—are built into the kitchen island rather than set against a wall, so the cook can face out toward the rest of the room. A minimalist aesthetic predominates, and the same sleek cabinet design by Poggenpohl covers all the kitchen's surfaces, including the dishwasher and refrigerator.
The apartment has turned out to be just as hospitable as Guidara had hoped. He mentions recent visits from chef friends—Grant Achatz of Alinea in Chicago, Enrique Olvera of Mexico City's Pujol (and, lately, New York's Cosme) and Brian Canlis, Guidara's roommate at Cornell, of that eponymous Seattle restaurant—and notes that he doesn't hesitate to put his guests to work. "When we get together, we cook together," Guidara laughs.
Guidara's devotion to the NoMad neighborhood and his restaurants is apparent in every corner of his home. He enlisted Eleven Madison Park designer Paul Renwick to plan the space. Adorning the walls are prints by Mackenzie Rollins, an old friend (and now, thanks to Guidara, Canlis' fiancée), depicting NoMad streets at night, "because we wanted to capture what the NoMad was now through the lens of a street photographer before it totally changes"—changes, presumably, that Guidara and Humm will help catalyze. Similar prints by Rollins hang in the NoMad bar.
Guidara proudly displays plates, bowls and decorative objects by sculptor Jono Pandalfi, who crafted all the Eleven Madison Park plates and who used to play with Guidara in a ska band.
A Faema E61 Legend coffeemaker, at the edge of the kitchen, is Guidara's shrine to his favorite matutinal beverage. A late riser, Guidara says the ritual of making coffee prepares him for the day ahead. "Even though it would be much simpler to have a little automatic thing," he says, "I like habits. I like the process of making a cup of coffee." He adds: "It's also a very beautiful object."
If you visit him early in the day, he's brewing you a cup before you walk in the door; in the evening, he's opening one of his favorite wines—Chablis, Barolo, Finger Lakes Riesling or Champagne.
The sleek space exudes the sophistication of its owner. But linger a little bit, taking a second look at some of the details on the walls, and Guidara's playful side comes into focus. Peppered everywhere are artifacts from his childhood: coffee-table books about Lego sculptures; decorative Polaroid cameras; a framed Thriller record that commemorates his first concert; a display of the glow-in-the-dark stars that decorated the bedroom ceiling of every kid in his generation. Red glass birds that belonged to his late mother sit inside of an Eleven Madison Park cloche. He asks dinner guests to sign their names on the underside of his dining table with a silver marker.
It's this whimsical sense of nostalgia that imbues the kitchen and home with real personality. Guidara aims to counter his state-of-the-art appliances and fine art with lightheartedness. He simply wants guests to find his home comfortable and familiar.
"The further evolved fine dining gets, I think, the more it can approximate fine art," he says. "And that's not what I'm going for. I'm going for deliciousness and graciousness."