Jean-Marc and his Mercedes-Benz 560 SL. © Nick Vordermann

New nordic cuisine and New York cool.

As part of our collaboration with online magazine Freunde von Freunden, we visit one of New York City’s most popular restaurateurs – Jean-Marc Houmard.
Jean-Marc's ACME is one of NYC's hottest restaurants. © Nick Vordermann

Out of the office into the brasserie.

Looking for a table at one of New York’s hottest restaurants on a Friday night? Then you’d better book ahead – after all, dinner is an NYC nightlife fixture and, due to the city’s cramped living conditions, most people prefer to head out with friends to make the most of their weekend. NoHo’s ACME is one of those sizzling and very now destinations. The brainchild of Jean-Marc Houmard and partners (Jon Neidich and Huy Chi Le, partner at Indochine), this metropolitan gem counts among the current favourites of New York’s creative scene – and sure enough: on my first-ever visit to this temple of culinary cool, I find myself seated right next to street style darling and jewellery designer Waris Ahluwalia. Beyond its laid-back brasserie-style interior and the equally laid-back atmosphere, ACME boasts a menu that is a cut or two above the rest.

Nordic cuisine for NYC's creative scene.

Aiming sky-high, Jean-Marc Houmard managed to lure Danish chef and Noma co-founder Mads Refslund away from Copenhagen, introducing the American public to his award-winning new nordic cuisine that might include mackerel tart with black truffles and pickled vegetables, Arctic char with horseradish and buttermilk or my personal favourite, shrimp and bison carpaccio with elderberries and rye.

Jean-Marc reviews the night's reservations. © Nick Vordermann

A few days after trying his restaurant, we meet Swiss native Jean-Marc Houmard at his Greenwich Village apartment to ask why he swapped his budding law career for the NYC restaurant business, what he loves about his Mercedes-Benz 560 SL, and which eateries he recommends – aside from his own, that is.

Jean-Marc across from his Greenwich Village appartement. © Nick Vordermann

“I then became a manager.”

You came to New York in the 1980s after graduating from law school in Geneva. What were you looking for?

Originally it was just meant to be a six-month internship stint at a law firm. It was non-paid so I had to work as a waiter at night, which is when I started working at Indochine.

Then I decided to stay for another six months, and then I decided that I didn’t want to go back and practice law. I actually hated the law firm I worked for. I enjoyed the New York nightlife. I then became a manager and eventually took over the restaurant in 1992 along with two other people who also worked at Indochine.

Jean-Marc lives the American Dream.

Gastronomy business by chance.

Was NYC how you expected it to be?

It was actually not at all what I had imagined. When I arrived in the East Village, I realized that New York has many facades and that there is a part that’s more creative, more underground and more artist-driven. I lived with two people in a very crummy apartment, it was super cheap, $300 divided by three, so in one night working as a waiter I could pay my rent, which was amazing.

Did you ever see yourself in the restaurant business?

No, it just kind of happened. At the time I worked at Indochine I also painted, it was this New York dream of being a bohemian. But at one point, after I had worked at Indochine for few years, I realized that I had to make a decision – either really do it or do something else.

Jean-Marc takes us to his favorite places: First stop is the Gasoline Alley Coffee. © Nick Vordermann

And then I thought: why not? So I started my life in the restaurant business.

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