Three-Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud talks to Douglas Blyde about the challenge of spanning continents and where his love of charcuterie comes from
My 83 year-old father, Julien, is passionate about charcuterie, which is where my interest came from. He ages seasoned pork belly for a year in bungee cord at our farm in the hills outside Lyon, and poaches whole chicken with Madeira wine, foie gras and truffles in a pig’s bladder. Although he still keeps some animals, he favours leisure now. I turned the chicken coup into a 50ft swimming pool and built a tennis court. We also have a table for 30 and a wood-fired grill.
I’m in London to launch a ‘dressed down’ version of my ‘BB burger’, featuring short ribs braised in red wine, and foie gras instead of tomato. Like New York, London doesn’t give you much rest. Launching Bar Boulud at Knightsbridge’s Mandarin Oriental wasn’t an easy decision. After the wonderful/ugly tour of what was a storage room with columns the size of a Bentley and no kitchen, I was ready to get back on the plane. However, my good friend, David Nicholls, responsible for bringing big name chefs to Mandarin Oriental properties worldwide, made sure we could do something together.
I live and cook at Daniel, my flagship restaurant in Manhattan. Many customers have become friends because they come so often. I believe in regulars, who appreciate a restaurant’s real soul. At the beginning I would do complex tasting menus alongside bistro dishes. But as I opened other restaurants, I shaved tripe and old-fashioned dishes, although I’ll still do a classic canard à la presse, which is better than that at Paris’s Tour d’Argent!
I remember the big adventure of opening in Beijing. The Chinese are afraid of nothing! At the start, when I asked suppliers for frogs’ legs, a guy arrived with a plastic bag of live toads. And the first suckling pigs looked like foetuses. ‘Ridiculous!’ I said, ‘Let them live a bit longer!’ Then came Singapore. It’s so hot - don’t wear a tie…
Coming soon is Café Boulud at the Four Seasons, Toronto. It will be about casual fine dining, which means it will be a restaurant that cruises comfortably at a high level. It’s hard to cruise for a chef: to maintain high standards while not always aiming for Michelin stars.
I love the tiny restaurant of my friend, Dominique le Stanc, La Merenda. Although today’s operations span many continents, I dream of opening a small bistro in Lyon, which would make my parents happy. And I’m putting the finishing touches to a cookbook marking 20 years of Daniel – ‘My French Cuisine in America.’ I sometimes go crazy.
One of the recipes is for Chartreuse de Gibier, featuring heads of woodcock, layers of baby dove, partridge, pheasant, cabbage farci with pork belly, crushed potatoes, roast foie gras and breast of woodcock, all served like a majestic turn of the century spectacle, three centuries ago. Pas mal, non?
A meal for two with drinks and service at Bar Boulud costs around £120 for two. Bar Boulud, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA; 020 7201 3899. danielnyc.com