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From Barnes & NobleA Conversation with Daniel Boulud
It is rather awe-inspiring to be in the presence of Daniel Boulud, who has been—more than once or twice—described as America's greatest French chef. Of course, it didn't hurt that I was sitting in a most comfortable chair in the lounge of his very beautiful restaurant, Restaurant Daniel, completely enveloped in the fragrance of massive bouquets of flowers, the gentle aromas of the four-star menu, and the quietly lingering voices of a lunchtime crowd. The sly Gallic charm of Chef Boulud was only the very delicious icing on the cake. What a great way to spend an afternoon!
As we talked about his latest cookbook, Daniel Boulud's Café Boulud Cookbook, his enthusiasm for his craft and his knowledge of the culinary arts enthralled me. I asked how this book differed from his first very successful book, Cooking With Daniel Boulud, for which I had also interviewed him for bn.com. "The first book was an extension of my newsletter [Easy Cooking with Great Chefs]; it focused on the seasonality of the marketplace and was more traditional in concept, with the expected chapters devoted to a particular food," he responded. "The Café Boulud Cookbook, on the other hand, is quite nontraditional in concept in that it is broken down into four sections—La Tradition, La Saison, Le Voyage, and Le Potager. The book burst forth at the same time that I was creating Café Boulud, so my creativity was very high. It was also at this point that I suddenly understood that I had gone from being a French chef to being a French-American chef." "What exactly does being a French-American chef mean to you?" I queried. "Well, I'm certainly very French, but I have cooked as long in New York [15 years] as I cooked in France," Daniel replied. "I am very much charmed by the United States. It has been inspirational to me—the markets, the lifestyle, the openness, the ethnic variety have all had an impact on the way that I cook. I would say that I have been deeply touched by America."
Being particularly interested in how American children eat and are fed, I asked Chef Boulud if his ten-year-old daughter had remained under his influence, or if she, like most American children, lived on junk food. "Oh, no," Daniel answered. "She eats traditional French food and is very conscious of how food is grown. When we are in France, she goes to the garden to pick the vegetables for our meals. She knows this is a unique experience, and she loves it. But, she also knows all of the junk food and, from time to time, I even join her in a hot dog feast!" "Is there something that you prepare that your daughter really loves?" I asked. "Both Alix and I love pasta—I always have a few recipes in my books. And, she also enjoys all kinds of salads, which I prepare at home." What a lucky girl!
Reading through Daniel Boulud's Café Boulud Cookbook, I was struck by the versatility of the recipes—each section really does offer what it promises, whether it's traditional recipes (sometimes updated), recipes bursting with the flavors of the seasons, recipes inspired by travel and other cultures, or extraordinary vegetarian dishes. But are they home-cook friendly, I wondered. Daniel must have read my mind because he said, "The book was written by Dorie Greenspan, who was very careful to make my recipes approachable. Sometimes the ingredient list may be long but the steps are well explained and easy for the home cook to read. Her writing is really pleasurable to read—it is so animated."
And as we were about to say our good-byes, Daniel said, "Since it is getting to be holiday time, I would like to suggest a menu for entertaining for your Barnes & Noble.com readers. My favorite recipe from the Café Boulud Cookbook would be the starter, Game Bird and Foie Gras Pâté (which can be made a week in advance—in fact it will taste better if it is), followed by Crab Salad with Green Apple Gelée, then a wonderful dish, Cod, Clams, and Chorizo Basquaise, and finally either Potato and Almond Cake or Vanilla Blueberries, aka Bill's Blues [the Bill being President William Jefferson Clinton, for whom Daniel has cooked a number of times]." To quote from some of the advance publicity material for the Café Boulud Cookbook: "Imagine. A table full of Daniel Boulud's food, and you made it," from a menu devised especially for you by the chef himself. Bon Appétit!