Industry Insiders: Daniel Boulud, French Ace

Daniel Boulud is one of a handful of people who can claim ownership of four stars from the New York Times’ restaurant critic. His modest roots in Lyon, France, instilled his understanding for local produce, and anyone who has visited one of his restaurants (Daniel, Bar Boulud, DB Bistro Moderne, DBGB) understands his love for a decadent burger. The New York-based chef will also be sharing his culinary mastery with supporters of the Le Fooding d’Amour event on September 26-27.

How’d you get involved with Le Fooding? I knew of it in France, through the media. I found out about it coming to New York through my friend, Yves Camdeborde, the chef of Le Comptoir, and my nephew Jean Luc Martin, who is a maitre d’ there. We’re always in contact, and Yves told me that Alexandre Cammas would be coming to New York and it would be great for me to meet with him and see if we could participate in the event.

What did you particularly like about the organization? In America, we definitely have many of those events. This is not a novelty to have chefs by stations and to have bartenders doing special cocktails. The food and wine festivals are all over the country, with charity dinners and all that. What’s interesting here is that it’s done in a very young and casual way. They approach music, art, food, and mixology together. I also like the fact that the French chefs are coming to New York to do the party. I think that’s interesting, because it’s good to have some fresh ideas coming into New York. It’s going to be very successful.

What will you be preparing for the event? For the event, with Cafe Boulud, we’re preparing a couscous. It’s traditional flavor and a contemporary approach to a couscous. We are making hamburgers, with different part of the braised lamb and a very good broth with it. It’s spicy and sweet.

Are there any organizations in the U.S that you would compare to Le Fooding? I will compare Le Fooding with when Danny Meyer does his barbecue block party, where thousands of people come, and there are all the different barbecue makers and beers.

Alex Cammas started Le Fooding because he said that he was tired of the “regulated, very serious nature of gastronomy in France.” How does French dining differ from American dining now? This is like if a punk or a rock artist was saying that classical music is just boring, and “let’s live the rock ‘n’ roll‎.” That punk had to learn classical music in order to become a good punk musician. So, I think it’s the cycle of generations. There’s certainly a young generation of chefs in France who want to detach themselves from old gastronomy. Luckily, they’re very talented and very creative chefs, and that gives them a platform and a window to do that. With Le Fooding the idea is to bring the great young chefs — not always the chef who has a three-star rating, but the one who has the best bistro in town — and the most creative of the new generation. In America, we add many opportunities to present our young chef into old food and wine festivals, which is something that would not exist in France.

Where are some of your favorite markets? In New York, Union Square is my favorite, but it’s also one of the largest. I like to go to the fish market in the Bronx. I love going down the aisle of those huge fish markets. In Europe, my favorite markets are in San Sebastian, Nice, and Paris. Rungis Market in Paris is amazing. It’s a big market for professionals; maybe the best in the world. In every city I visit, I always ask the concierge to direct me to the best market. It gives me a sense of what people are eating locally, because the only people you have in the market are locals. I was born and raised on a farm, so every Saturday from the age of eight — when I was old enough to go with my father to the market — until the age of sixteen, I was with my father selling our vegetables. Today, every chef dreams to be a farmer, and for me I was a farmer and I dreamed to be a chef.

One piece of advice you could give about making selections at the market? When you go to the market, you use your eyes to spot the good things; you use your brain to look a the price and compare; then you use your nose. Sometimes you can use your hands, but often farmers don’t like when you touch things. When you go to the market, you get involved with what you want to buy. You have a relationship talking about the product with someone who has grown it and nurtured it. It’s a whole different thing from grabbing something off the shelf and putting it into a cart.

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