Masterchef S01 ep10: Daniel Boulud, Boulud Restaurant, [New York]

Interview with Daniel Boulud

At Le Cirque I was flying. Sirio was like 'Oh I'm sorry.. it would be 9.30 at night, I forgot to tell you I have 12 friends coming tonight. Can you make me a little menu?' And then I learnt that the 12 friends were of course, Italian press, French press, VIP chefs. That was my chance to impress him. I would think 'Oh you forgot to tell me, well I'm going to show what I can do for you!


Daniel is spiritually French. He was born and raised on a farm, near Lyon. That
started in 1969 and the 70's was the beginning of Nouvelle Cuisine in France,
sort of the revolution in cooking and that is what maybe kept me cooking.

I would see every morning Alain Chappel, Paul Bocuse, Troisgros and all the
Lyonese and I could see this fraternity of friends and also the fraternity
between suppliers and restaurateurs. When I was in Lyon we learnt through
the grapevine and the cooks who worked at Bocuse and Chapel "Oh our boss
is in Japan, is in America", and when I started to learn to cook a chef I was
working with told me, he said " you are choosing a wonderful job because you
can choose to live anywhere in the world and you will always be cooking".

I wanted to work for George Blanc because he was one of the youngest
restaurateurs, he was like 28, 29 year of age at the time and I was about 17. It
was very good for me to see the evolution of that, to see the gradual change
and to be part of it. For example the mother was only doing frogs legs with
garlic and parsley, and butter, and perfectly seasoned, and perfectly
presented. George wanted to do frog legs with a charlotte cream, and some
leaves of sorrels...

KM: Ah so he was experimenting?

and things like that and crispy potatoes on it, things much more experimental.

Jewellery Theatre Carravaggio

KM: And then what was Roger Verge like?

Roger Verge was an artist in a way but he was also... he knew how to be a
warrior in this business. Many times, for example he worked in Africa, in
opening restaurants in airports, and at that time they were very important
locations and he had contracts. He had to learn to do a lot with little.

Roger Verge was really the expression also of Province, I mean for me the
best memory I have is when he made the soup de Poisson and you have a
basket full of small rock fish like this, live still, with all the different fish and the
little crabs and everything and you heat up the olive oil and the garlic and the
fennel and you throw all the live fish into the pot and start to stir them and
make soup di Poisson

KM: that is the ultimate freshness?

Exactly, and you can only do it there. Picasso was living in his village, I mean
that was no small potatoes there.

KM: Did he used to serve Picasso?

Yeah, he used to be at the restaurant very often, because he was just at the
top of the hill, and instead of paying for his meal Picasso would give him a

Not every dish is a classic. I think we are remembered for very few dishes and
every chef has made thousands of dishes. But, if you ask me Pierre
Kaufmann, what do you know about him, I know that he does a beautiful pigs
feet. I think of Paul Bocuse, what is the man good at, I think that he is good at
many things, but there is this soup that he has created that with a pie crust on
top with foie gras, with the consume with the truffles and it is a masterpiece of
simplicity and genius.

Jewellery Theatre Carravaggio

I went to Roger Verge and you know I said, "you know I would like to go to
Troigrois or Chapel" he convinced me to go to Denmark. So I stay for about a
year and half at the Plaza hotel in Copenhagen. Copenhagen was a revelation
because every chef who travelled out of his boundaries, sort of discovered new
ingredients, discovered new taste.

I was then inspired by Michel Gerard. If Roger Verge was the artist, Michel
Gerard was a Poet.

The early 80's there was something happening in America where few of them,
very few of them had any connection with France, totally in the same level. I
stayed two years in Washington and then I felt, I had the chance to come to
New York in between and work in a restaurant here called La Cote Basque
which at the time was the big restaurant institution, New York institution.

I went to that restaurant and I saw the energy, the clientele, the class

KM: the buzz?


The buzz, I thought to myself oh my god I have never seen a restaurant like
that and in the kitchen they were buying produce, porcini - it didn't matter the
price, cases to the wall. I was starting to make a little name for myself, and
Sirio Marccioni was looking for a chef for Le Cirque, and Le Cirque was
definitely known and had an incredible clientele but was it was not known for its

Jewellery Theatre Elements

I have learned a lot of things at Le Cirque with regards to organisation, and
how to get organised much more maybe than I have learned with a restaurant
where everything is so - the word spontaneity comes to mind, in those big 3
star restaurants there is no spontaneity, very rigid.

KM: Very rigid.

At La Cirque you were flying. Sirio was like "Oh I'm sorry.. (it would be 9.30 at
night) I'm sorry I forgot to tell you I have 12 friends coming tonight can you
make me a little menu?" And then I learnt that the 12 friends were of course,
Italian press, French press, chefs and this and that, so it was not like I'm
cooking for the family. That was my challenge to impress him, not to impress
the guests, but to impress him. I think you, "oh you forgot to tell me, well I'm
going to show what I can do for you!"

KM: So how long were you at Le Cirque?

Six years.

KM: How do you create a dish?

I always work very seasonally. It is a market driven menu, so spontaneity,
creativity are focused on ingredients and after that technique and taste, and
presentation comes way last. I am not designing a dish and then figuring out if
I can get the ingredients. Right now we a moreel and crayfish dish, where we
stuff the morrell with a little liver heart a bit of frau gras and then after we have
the quail roasted, the legs of the quail stuffed and we have the fricassee of
crayfish. In that dish I am trying to remain with the traditional flavour the
morrell, crayfish and the delicacy of quail.

Jewellery Theatre Fairytales

Famous artists do not come to the dinning room, because they do not care to
dress up, so they go directly to the kitchen and sit down in the sky box, which
is the chef's table, overlooking the whole kitchen and of course feeling like they
are in their own little private club and dancing to drinking and to partying..

KM: there in the Kitchen?

Yeah in the sky box.

OFFICIAL WEBSITE:Daniel Boulud, Boulud Restaurant, [New York]