The New York food scene is notoriously fickle, chewing up hot-shot chefs and buzzy restaurants so fast that it’s a wonder anyone has the gumption to play the game at all. Yet through all the seismic shifts in tastes, one factor remains constant: Up at the top of the heap, you’ll find a small group of insanely talented French dudes clinking glasses of first-growth Bordeaux and surveying their kingdoms.
Along with Jean-George Vongerichten and Eric Ripert, Daniel Boulud is one of the true titans of that O.G. crew, having been a fixture of the city’s fine-dining scene for nearly three decades. Beginning at the legendary Le Cirque, where he won a James Beard Award for Best Chef of New York City in 1993, the Lyon-born chef opened his Upper East Side flagship, Restaurant Daniel, in 1998 and has since built a French-American empire that stretches from Miami to Singapore.
Like Jay Z, Boulud has managed to go global without losing the swagger—or NYC fan base—that made him a star in the first place. His high-end restaurants remain bastions of haute-French cooking, anchored by a world-class charcuterie program and a deep reverence for classic Old World recipes (many of which are cataloged in stunning detail in the chef’s most recent book with Bill Buford, My French Cuisine).
Every chef is remembered for a few dishes, even if he creates thousands of them.
But, perhaps most impressively, Boulud has proved adept at staying perpetually relevant. His notorious DB Burger—a French take on the American classic, packed with red wine-braised short rib and foie gras—effectively launched the trend for gourmet patties, and his reputation as a Gallic party machine has made him a dependable fixture in food-blog culture (on any given night, you might find him snapping selfies with Sammy Hagar, or cooking a surprise dinner for Wylie Dufresne while tied to Danny Bowien).
With DB Brasserie, a brand-new Vegas outpost, opening on April 24 inside the Venetian, Boulud shows no signs that he’ll be pumping the breaks anytime soon. But after more than 20 years and innumerable accolades at Restaurant Daniel, it seemed like a good time to convince DB to sit down and take a look back at his story so far.
“Every chef is remembered for a few dishes, even if he creates thousands of them,” he says. Here, the powerhouse chef takes us through some of the creations that he believes will define his own legacy when he finally decides to hang up his whites.