“Do you speak French?” Daniel Boulud, the award-winning chef and cookbook author asked me.
We were seated at a quiet table in the corner of Cafe Boulud in the Four Seasons Toronto for a talk about New York, travel, and cooking. “I wish I did, but fortunately my partner does, which comes in handy during travel.” I replied.
“And he takes you there, to Paris?”
“Yes, we’ve spent time in Paris and also in Bordeaux and Provence, but I’d love to spend some time in Lyon.”
We went on to talk about Boulud’s hometown of Lyon, and his perfect day there — just published as a Fodor’s interview — but it was this small exchange that stuck with me. Boulud has a reputation for his generosity, both in the style of his cooking and in how he deals with the media. It was refreshing to sit down with a chef who was not only enthusiastic about answering my questions, but also has a strong curiosity about life and the people he meets.
As for me, I was curious to talk to Boulud about New York, the city he has chosen to make his home since 1982. I wanted to know if after all these years, Boulud thinks of New York as home, or if a piece of him always longs for Lyon.
J.C. After all these years, does New York feel like home? Why was the city a good fit for what you wanted to achieve?
D.B. I’m blessed to have made this city my life, to cook in an international city where my food has an audience. Other places didn’t give me that in the same way.
Describe your perfect meal from start to finish.
In the winter, I would want hot soup to start and Madeleines to finish. And some chocolate. In the summer, I crave more fresh and tangy flavors, but every meal should have fruit and chocolate.
How do you stay driven on a daily basis?
Building layers of support in all directions is important. A strong organization, a support system, will help you not to burn out. My incredible team motivates me every day.
What is your daughter’s favorite meal you cook at home?
It used to be pasta, but then she developed a gluten allergy. Now I make a lot of one pot meals. Start with the ingredients that take the longest to cook, and finish with the freshest ingredients last.
Boulud’s enthusiasm for food is infectious. We finished our chat with him taking out his phone to show pictures of a meal recently whipped up at home: linguini with saffron, lemon, king crab, spinach, and fresh mint. He flipped through to show me a couple shots of this creation, finishing with a satisfied smile and voila.
Then — right as my stomach started to grumble — it was time for dinner.
Photo Credit: Jessica Colley.