Q&A: Chef Daniel Boulud Discusses Bar Boulud, Coming to Boston this Fall
Last Friday marked Toques & Tonic, a swanky celeb chef-and bartender-filled event at the Boston Children’s Museum that benefitted the Barbara Lynch Foundation. While many big names were in attendance (Philadelphia’s Marc Vetri, Chicago’s Paul Kahan, L.A.’s Suzanne Goin), one chef had a more personal stake in visiting Boston for the evening: Daniel Boulud, who, it was recently announced via Eater, will be bringing an outpost of his most casual French concept, Bar Boulud, to the Mandarin Oriental this September. We cornered the French superchef at the event to ask him about his plans for the new spot.
LM: How did you get involved in the event with Barbara Lynch?
DB: Last year I was here for the event at Menton, and then we had the Blizzard Bash, which was, uh…
The name was too appropriate.
Too much of a blizzard. We had a lot of fun, but also, I think Barbara is a very unique person. It’s beautiful what she does.
How long have you known her?
25 years. We grew up together in this business, her being here and me in New York. But I also used to come here a lot more for [the] Spinazolla [Gala] for the Spinazolla foundation, it was a foundation for many years where chefs came to support. So there were always a lot of chefs and Barbara was always a part of it.
Your daughter, Alix, went to Tufts as well, correct?
Yes, so I spent four years coming to Boston on a regular basis.
So you’re familiar! Can you tell me about your favorite restaurants to visit when you’re in town?
Well, I always love Michael Schlow, Ken Oringer, of course Barbara’s places are incredible. And even at a time Jasper White, when Jasper was here [with Jasper’s], and I used to come with Julia [Child], when Julia was in Boston. I would come to do cooking shows with her or special events with her. We would go and eat at Hamersley’s, and Jasper’s, and the whole old guard of Boston– and Lydia [Shire], of course, Lydia, an amazing force also. Of course I know O Ya, and when my daughter graduated I celebrated at Menton. That was for graduation night. When she started at Tufts, we went to O Ya the first weekend.
That’s not a bad way to start off college.
And then in between we did others–Ken’s place, Toro, and the sushi place also [(Uni)].
Did any of that factor into you wanting to open in Boston?
No, but I’ve always loved Boston as a city for food, for sure. Boston has such a strong identity. When you think of New England, and New England cuisine, you think of Boston as the capital of New England cuisine. I have always had a lot of cooks– I had a chef who worked with Barbara, she sent him to me in New York. I’ve had a chef who worked with Michael Schlow.
Boulud is whisked away to take a photo with Barbara Lynch…returns a few minutes later.
Let’s talk about Bar Boulud–why did you want to open this in Boston?
I have had a relationship with the Mandarin Hotel for about four years, and we are in London with them with Bar Boulud in Knightsbridge with the Mandarin hotel. When they approached me they said the Mandarin in Boston would love to change the restaurant they have because it’s maybe not locally focused on a chef, or on a particular direction. They said, ‘Would you ever consider a Bar Boulud?’ and I thought it was a good location, a good building, a good hotel. Their reputation is important to me, and my reputation as well. It’s a good compromise but I wanted to do something casual, still.
So that’s why it was important to you to have it be that specific concept.
Yes, Bar Boulud is not a flagship Daniel or a Cafe Boulud, but Bar Boulud is very much about being a restaurant as much for the hotel but also the Bostonians and the people visiting. Boston is very cosmopolitan, when you think of it, with all of the schools. As a parent who had a daughter here, I was going out with friends who were coming in from all over the world and all over the country.
Will the menu be unique to the location, or will there be overlap with the others?
No, well there is a core of dishes that we like to do, and the charcuterie program that we do with Gilles Verot, the head charcutier, like we do also in London. Of course, with the chef– the chef is Aaron Chambers, and he was the chef at Boulud Sud, the restaurant I created [about] 3 years ago, and he has been with me for six years. He was at Cafe Boulud before, he worked at Bar Boulud, so he really knows well what he can do. New York and Boston are not far from each other, but of course there is an important component of seafood [in Boston]. It’s about the local ingredients, the seasons, whatever is good at the market in that particular time.
But maybe some more seafood because it is Boston?
There will be that also. But at the same time it will be Bar Boulud, a wine bar with a bistro menu, and the wine program is focused on Burgundy and the Rhone, or any winemakers making that style of wine. A great focus on wine, great focus on charcuterie, and the local, seasonal market.