Chef Daniel Boulud Talks About db Bistro Moderne's 5-Year Anniversary, The Allure Of South American Cuisine, And Tackling Hunger Relief
In the culinary world, Chef Daniel Boulud is about as accomplished as it gets. He has earned three James Beard Awards (in fact, his first-ever professional recognition came at the ripe age of 15); he's been awarded the Legion of Honor, France's highest distinction, by the president of France; and his flagship restaurant, Daniel, holds two Michelin stars.
In addition to two South Florida restaurants—Café Boulud in Palm Beach and db Bistro Moderne in downtown Miami—the New York-based French chef's empire includes eight restaurants and bars in New York City, as well as others in Boston, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, London, Canada and Singapore.
During his five-year anniversary party for Miami's db Bistro Moderne last month, we spoke to Boulud about what makes a restaurant last, his favorite ethnic cuisines, and his involvement with the James Beard organization Citymeals-on-Wheels, which makes food deliveries to the homebound elderly in New York.
How do you feel about celebrating the fifth anniversary of db Bistro Moderne in Miami?
It's nice. We love to celebrate milestones. We celebrated five years of being in London at the beginning of the year, five years here in Miami. There's always reason to celebrate.
What do you think has made db Bistro last in a market that sees a lot of restaurants close within a year?
I don't think we have ever tried to be trendy. I think we are looking more at the long haul, where we also have partners who are committed to investing in us and in the restaurant.
What differences do you see between the Miami restaurant base at db Bistro and Café Boulud in Palm Beach?
It's different, and yet, it's the same. There are more people working in Miami than Palm Beach. Palm Beach is a little more for leisure, so it's different in terms of how they entertain themselves. But in Palm Beach, we have a lot of regular customers. It's very well-established. We are celebrating our 15 years now.
Chef versus restaurateur–which do you prefer?
I never really compare the two. … I'll never be only a restaurateur, but I'll always be a chef.
If you weren't a chef, what would you be doing?
I don't even think about it.
What's your favorite type of cuisine—besides French?
Depends where I am, what I do. There's too many cuisines I love. As long as I feel there's integrity of soul and ingredients and technique and taste, all these things are important in cuisine. Today, I love Mexican cuisine, I love South American cuisine, and I think Miami has some of the best talent in South American cuisine here.
It's definitely nice to have all of the cultures come together here.
Yes, it's nice, and you need them all. They can't live only on South American cuisine. I think Miami is coming a little bit out of this Floridian cuisine. There's definitely a lot of support with the local suppliers and all that, but then at the same time, I think there's a real insurgence of South America. We have a chef from Uruguay, from Argentina, we have chefs from Peru, chefs from Mexico opening in Miami, and that's pumping up big time. I'm proud of them. I think it's great.
What kind of food or restaurant concepts do you see there being a lot of room for in today's market?
If I had a crystal ball, I'd be much richer than what I am. … It's like the stock market. Are you looking for the long haul or are you looking for the short buy and sell, and all that? I think trends come and go, so what will be the next trend? For sure, South American, yes, but a little bit more specific is better.
You're involved with Citymeals-on-Wheels and other food organizations. Could you tell me a little more about a food issue that's important to you?
Many people are lucky to have a family who can take care of themselves, but many people are not so lucky to be taken care of. I think Citymeals, it's about taking care of people who are not abandoned, but they can't afford to cook or shop or take care of themselves, yet they want to live in their apartment. So we deliver 18,000 meals a day in New York with Citymeals, and that's a very big program. Anything related to hunger relief is a good one.