French-born chef Daniel Boulud is one of the most acclaimed chef-restaurateurs in the USA and will launch his first European restaurant at London's Mandarin Oriental hotel this spring. He spoke to Kerstin Kühn.
Caterer Why have you chosen to come to London?
Daniel Boulud Mandarin's corporate director of food and beverage, David Nicholls, approached me about launching a Bar Boulud, which is my casual restaurant concept, and I was immediately interested. I have known London and its restaurant scene for a very long time and have had many chefs from here cook at my restaurants in New York, including Marcus Wareing and Stuart Gillies. The attraction of London is not only that there's a big pool of talented chefs here but also the fact that there's an amazing supply of ingredients available and a very discerning clientele.
Caterer Are you nervous about launching a restaurant here?
DB There is a difference between me, a French chef who has lived in America for 25 years, and a French chef from France launching a restaurant in London. I think I have a better understanding of expectations in a city like London because it's compatible with New York. For a chef bringing a restaurant from Paris or Lyon here it is a bit more challenging to understand the market and the culture.
Caterer What will Bar Boulud be like?
DB It's a wine bar and restaurant offering a French menu with a big focus on charcuterie, sausages and signature terrines and pâtés, which we will make on-site. My friend Gilles Verot will provide a charcutier who will oversee this. Although I haven't started shopping for ingredients, I hope it will be reasonably priced. We don't have a reputation here and I want people to want to come back - I don't want the only thing guests remember to be the bill.
Caterer Who will be in the kitchen?
DB The head chef is an American who has been working with me in New York for five years and has previously worked in England. The crew will be mostly local but there will also be chefs - both French and American - coming over from New York. Initially the brigade will need to know me and how I work but over time I hope to give young British chefs the opportunity to come and work with me both here and in New York.
Caterer You recently gained three Michelin stars at your flagship restaurant Daniel. Has this changed anything?
DB While three stars has always been an ambition, I am very conscious of not isolating myself in my own dream. I wanted to make sure I was financially stable and the three-star model is not very good for that. In France, Michelin gives you 20% more business and visibility. In America it gives you a bigger global exposure, which is good, but it can also alienate your local customers. Nothing has changed for me since winning three stars and the last thing I want is for my restaurant to be different - it's a New York restaurant that caters for the locals as much as the visitors.