Daniel Boulud is chef-owner of several award-winning restaurants and catering company Feast & Fêtes. While he hails from outside Lyon, France, it was in New York that he truly mastered the dining scene and is today considered one of America’s leading culinary authorities.
Raised on his family’s farm in the village of Saint-Pierrede-Chandieu, the chef remains inspired by the rhythm of the seasons and menus driven by fine ingredients. Since arriving in the US in 1982, Boulud has become renowned for the contemporary appeal he adds to soulful cooking, rooted in French tradition.
Brasserie Boulud restaurant has opened its doors at Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk in October 2020.
Tell us a little about your journey towards stardom.
My journey may have started at the age of 15, when I served my first president in France, but there are no rewards of stardom until you open your first restaurant and make a first profit. My journey really began in America, in New York City.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in your journey?
There are always a few bumps along the road. One challenge was when I transitioned from owning one restaurant to multiple restaurants, expanding our team and viewing the business on a bigger scale, while keeping true to our brand.
Another difficulty I experienced was the language and ingredient barrier when opening a restaurant in a foreign country like China. This was a definite learning curve. Becoming a chef-entrepreneur often takes you away from the stove and you always have to find the right balance. Of course, Covid-19 has been so difficult just as it has been for the entire hospitality industry worldwide.
What are some career highlights that have stayed with you throughout the years?
My proudest accolade would have to be 27 years ago, when I opened my flagship restaurant, DANIEL in New York City. A proud moment was in 1999 at the very first fundraising gala for Citymeals on Wheels, an organisation that delivers meals to homebound elderly New Yorkers and is very dear to me.
I was honoured to have my five French chef mentors attend the event – Paul Bocuse, Georges Blanc, Roger Verger, Gérard Nandron, and Michel Guérard. Cooking for the Dali Lama, and many American presidents including Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Carter, Clinton and Obama are incredible memories as well. Another event that remains so vivid in my mind is cooking for 800 of the most powerful and renowned people in the business, sport and political world at the 75th anniversary of Time magazine at Radio City Music Hall.
You celebrate contemporary appeal, without giving up on French tradition: why do you think this is of importance to a chef’s signature style and the way his dishes are perceived?
My cooking is rooted in French tradition inspired by the seasons, yet I have been wandering the world for more than three decades, motivated by the journey. My travels have influenced my cuisine. Every chef in my restaurants practices the DNA of my cuisine with updated classics and dishes based on local availability and quality of ingredients. Our menus are always in constant flux with the seasons.
Why have you chosen Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk as your next stop?
I like Accor group, which is well-positioned in the Middle East. Our brands complement one another very well, and it was the right opportunity to collaborate together.
What makes the experience at this hotel special?
The quality of the hotel is excellent with a fabulous view of Dubai’s skyline. The building is very symbolic for the Middle East, shaped in an obelisk form.
How does managing a restaurant differ from a café or food hall?
No matter the level of restaurant, we bring a certain degree of service and quality consistent with our brand. We curate the service and cuisine with our commitment to hospitality.
How has being a chef helped you become a restaurateur?
My dream was to become a chef first, then a restaurateur. I have accomplished both.
What’s your comfort food and how do you stay inspired?
In summer, my ultimate comfort food is a beautiful roasted leg of lamb and seasonal vegetables flavoured with spices, herbs and citrus. In colder weather, I enjoy a steaming Poule au Pot, which is chicken and winter root vegetables poached in a delicious broth accompanied by a pilaf rice, topped with a sauce made of reduced stock, crème fraiche, and black truffles.
You have restaurants in the world’s top cities; what is Daniel Boulud’s dream now?
My dream is to continue on my journey to innovate and inspire in different parts of the world.