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Boulud, Sweat

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Tears Words: Coco Marett Images: Courtesy of The Landmark Mandarin

Revered French Chef Daniel Boulud’s three-Michelin star restaurant ‘Daniel’ in New York celebrates its 20th year with the release of Boulud’s latest book, ‘My French Cuisine’. We speak to the chef about humble beginnings, feeding the famous and why bananas were once upon a time banned from his menus…

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I remember that first day working in the restaurant and the smell of food I’d never had. The sauces, the lobster, the shellfish…

M

y menus are very personalised, a reflection

“What’s interesting about New York is that if you go there thinking that you’re going

they produced. “It was a revelation to taste all this food and the flavours. I wanted

of being French in America – a French New

to take advantage of it, New York doesn’t like that. If you give something to the city

to try everything!”

Yorker,” says Chef Daniel Boulud. Dressed

and you really contribute to what it’s is about, New York will give it back to you and

in his pristine chef whites, he is busy

more,” says Boulud. “New York has been my town; I’ve been in the same zip code

He proceeds to reminisce over first tastes, including truffles and avocado, which

for 30 years.”

was love at first bite, to his affinity for gummi bears to items that didn’t quite tickle

preparing a special menu for two evenings as honoured guest chef at Hong Kong’s two-Michelin star ‘Amber’. “That’s why

his taste buds. “I hate bananas. I never liked them and I never will,” says Boulud

I called my new book ‘My French Cuisine’ because it’s not so

“Ah, and here is my daughter,” pronounces the master chef as he continues to flip

who, for a long time, wouldn’t even allow his pastry chefs to make desserts using

much about French cuisine, but my interpretation of it. It

through ‘My French Cuisine’.

bananas. “But my daughter happens to love them, so I had to make an exception.”

“Are you teaching her to cook?” I ask.

Today, Boulud has eight restaurants in Manhattan including his flagship fine dining

includes some of the recipes which we have in ‘Daniel’ as well as some classics.”

restaurant, ‘Daniel’, the more casual ‘Café Boulud’ and ‘DB Bistro Moderne’, ‘DBGB More than just a cookbook (Boulud has published five during

“She lives in San Francisco now but yes, I tell her by text because she throws dinner

Kitchen & Bar’, where brasserie meets American tavern, two bars, ‘Bar Pleiades’ and

his career as a chef), ‘My French Cuisine’ features essays on

parties all the time,” says Boulud, hardly able to contain a proud smile. “I tell her

‘Bar Boulud’, the Mediterranean-inspired ‘Boulud Sud’ and the recently opened

wine, cheese and bread and is a look into the illustrious history

what to buy, what to do, then she’ll send me pictures saying “okay, this is my mise

deli-style ‘Epicerie Boulud’ offering home made artisanal breads, charcuterie, pastries,

of ‘Daniel’, the restaurant, and a peek into the life of Daniel,

en place” and I will say okay, now do this…”

ice-cream and salads to go.

For a moment I am taken away from the stylish bar at ‘Amber’ in The Landmark

“I put the same care into even my most casual restaurants so you can have Daniel

“Here it is!” he delights as he opens to a page of the stunning

Mandarin. I’m now in Boulud’s home territory, the kitchen, humbled by his genuine

for US$300 or you can have Daniel for US$10. I like the fact that we’ve managed to

entrance to ‘Daniel’ on New York’s 65th Street, previously

sense of joy and warmth as he walks me through the early pages of ‘My French

have various levels of offerings for different people,” says Boulud.

home to ‘Le Cirque’ where Boulud was Executive Chef from

Cuisine’, which also features candid photos of him entertaining family and close

1986 until 1992, serving the good and the great from Presidents

friends in his apartment, located above ‘Daniel’ of course. “And here we have Paul

While most restaurants are putting away the white tablecloths and moving towards

to Hollywood’s highbrow.

Bocuse, I am the godfather of this young boy here,” he says, pointing to a photograph

the trend of more casual but quality-focused dining, and despite the resounding

taken in his kitchen of the nouvelle cuisine icon. “This is his grandson, and his name

success of his more relaxed establishments, Boulud insists that fine dining is here

is also Paul.”

to stay. “What has to go away from fine dining is the pretentiousness; there’s nothing

the chef, the eater, the man.

“Norman Parkinson, one of the greatest photographers of the 20th Century, came to ‘Le Cirque’ for lunch every day and he

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worse than a restaurant that looks fancy but can’t deliver. When the restaurant is

never opened the menu. He always let me cook for him and every

Boulud was only one week into his first job as a gawky 14-year-old kitchen apprentice

super luxe and delivers in all aspects - food, service, wine, the experience - there is

time, he would clean up his plate with his bread before taking

in Lyon when he met the legendary Bocuse at Les Halles market, who became not

no price for that,” he says. “I love casual restaurants and I eat at them all the time

his marker and writing on the plate how much he loved the food,”

only a mentor – his first instruction to young Boulud was to “get a haircut” – but

but I think it’s more about the fact that casual dining has become better and fine

recalls Boulud, who prior to heading the kitchen at ‘Le Cirque’

also a lifelong friend. “I remember that first day working in the restaurant and the

dining has got worse. And then there are the few crazy people like me who try to

made his name at ‘Le Regence’ in the Upper East Side’s revered

smell of food I had never experienced. The sauces, the lobster, the shellfish…” says

do it all!”

Hotel Plaza Athenée, where he regularly cooked for Andy Warhol.

Boulud, whose family lived on a farm in St. Pierre de Chandieu and only ate what

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Daniel Boulud