Celebrated French Chef Daniel Boulud catches his breath to give us an exclusive interview after an eventful four days at GourmetFest.
Chef Daniel Boulud.
The fragrance of black truffles and fine wines wafted through the charming Carmel-by-the-Sea as Relais & Châteaux fêted the fourth annual GourmetFest. The opulent food festival—picture back-to-back five-course lunches and dinners with wine pairings—brought a host of Relais & Châteaux chefs, five of which are Michelin-starred, including Chef Daniel Boulud.
“I've been trying to do the Relais & Châteaux GourmetFest for years and haven't been able to because of event conflicts,” says the charismatic Boulud, who’s belonged to Relais & Châteaux since the start of his career. Thanks to the persistence of GourmetFest’s mastermind David Fink, Boulud participated for the first time.
During GourmetFest, the celebrated chef, and restaurateur demonstrated how to make poached grouper on a bed of cauliflower, a similar seasonal recipe from his eponymous restaurant (at Daniel he would prepare the dish with cod). Following the interactive event, Chef Boulud teamed up with Nathan Rich of Twin Farms to prepare a five-course lunch, which included squab served two ways and the poached grouper. In between Chef Boulud’s eventful schedule and an impromptu golf outing, we chatted with him about the first thing he learned to make, if he has ever been nervous to prepare a meal, and his thoughts on opening a restaurant in LA.
Chef Daniel Boulud's poached grouper.
Do you remember the first thing you learned to make? DB: As an apprentice, when I was 14, my first station was pastry. I had to learn to make Tarte au Pomme, which is an apple pie made with a puff pastry base, and layers and layers of thin apple slices with sugar and butter on top.
Do you have any advice for a chef who’s starting out? DB: When I see a young chef, I want to say to them it doesn’t matter where you want to work. Just make sure it’s for someone who belongs to the [Relais & Châteaux] group because this is what will shape your life.
LAC: Will you open a restaurant in LA? DB: LA is so well-served with good food, I'm not sure it needs me! I love how diverse and cosmopolitan the food scene is in LA, and it's always getting better. I only choose places, people, and partners that are a perfect fit for me, so if this were to happen, sure—LA would be great. As long as there is the right reason, story, and customers to please, I've found these are the elements that make projects work.
Did you ever cook for anyone who made you nervous? DB: I did the catering for Time magazine’s 75th anniversary. It was in New York City. They had locked up Radio City Music Hall for three days with police and security. 800 of the most influential people in the world in any category were invited: show biz, sports, politics, business... anything! Gorbachev, Bill Gates, and Christopher Reeve gave speeches. They transformed Radio City Music Hall into a dining hall. I remember I made a Maine crab salad to start. Then I served a peasant dish with a layer of shredded onion, thyme, and bay leaf, then a layer of potatoes, layer of roasted lamb chops, and a layer of potatoes and onion and stock, and braised that slowly for hours. The whole dish was served like a real peasant dish with a spoon and everybody loved it! It was the biggest party I’ve ever done in my career because in one shot I served 800 of the most powerful, influential, recognizable people in the world!