In 1991, when the famous culinary guide Zagat Survey asked seven thousand of its members « Where would you spend the last meal of your life? », an astounding majority immediately answered « At David Bouley's! » This anecdote serves as sort of mise-en-bouche to the extraordinary adventure of the American chef with French roots!
From 1990 to 1996 when the Tribeca restaurant Bouley, named after its chef, was at the height of its popularity, it was almost impossible to get a place: the restaurant was booked for each service. Warren Beatty, Woody Allen and even Bill Cosby were among the restaurant's regulars. David and his wife became two half of a New York celebrity couple. In 1990, influential New York Times restaurant critic Bryan Miller gave the chef four stars and stated: « His dedication to using regional products, intellectual approach to flavors and textures, and obvious pleasure in stunning and surprising its clients are what make Bouley the most exciting restaurant in New York! » Twenty-two years after Bryan Miller's review, mine was the same. The pleasurable experience is intact!
Birth of a chef
David Bouley was born in the small town of Storrs, Connecticut. Starting in childhood, David was influenced by the country life on his grandparent's farm: their French heritage left them with a love for their land, fresh products and clean cooking. At nineteen, David left for Santa Fe where he met chef Michel Richard, a well known chef, now in charge of Washington's Citronelle restaurant and who at the time was head pastry chef at La Fonda hotel. David then followed Michel Richard to Los Angeles. He then flew to France and studied at La Sorbonne university before working with Gaston Lenôtre, Roger Vergé, Paul Bocuse, Joël Robuchon and Frédy Girardet: the icing on the best cake in French gastronomy!
Back in New York, David worked successively for the best restaurants of the time: Le Cirque, Le Périgord and La Côte Basque. In 1985 he became the chef of one of New York's top restaurants: Le Montrachet. Finally, in 1987, he opened his own restaurant Bouley, in Tribeca. Bouley rapidly became a do-not-miss hotspot serving « new haute American cuisine ». On top of the four stars delivered by the New York Times, he also received the James Beard award for best chef and best restaurant from the James Beard Foundation, named after a chef whose goal was to promote the art of food. Not long after, David opened a bakery in the same neighborhood, which became immensely popular and was equally rewarded with four stars from the New York Times. He followed up with a café and another restaurant, Le Danube, which was inspired by Austria and decorated in the style of Gustave Klimt. After September 11th, Bouley Bakery served as a base site for the preparation of over one million meals for firefighters and rescue workers in partnership with the Red Cross.
Truffles, Japan and new creations
Bouley reopened its doors in 2002 on the corner of Duane and Hudson streets in Tribeca. The cuisine was French with a strong hint of truffles: corn flan with Dungeness crab and black truffle broth, slow cooked wild salmon with a black fig and Crozes-Hermitage consommé, or organic roast duckling with Balinese pepper and white truffle honey are all sure to wet your appetite!
Yet David Bouley has a hard time staying in one place and new projects keep catching up with him. In April of 2011 his latest project opened, replacing the now closed Danube. The effort was Brustroke, a Japanese restaurant he runs in collaboration with the Tsuji Culinary Institute of Osaka. Brustroke obeys the Kaiseki, a traditional Japanese meal ritual made up of a multitude of small plates all served at once. In Japan, chefs are trained for this style of cooking, which requires the use of seasonal products and highlights the « wellbeing » aspect of cooking. At the same time, David opened Bouley Test Kitchen, a space created for private events as well as a place to test and taste new ideas with visiting chefs. The location was used in 2011 by the American Bocuse d'Or team, headed up by Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller.
Wanting above all to please and surprise his clients, David Bouley is one of the world's only chefs to personalize his dishes according to his clients' tastes and desires! Sending back an empty plate to the kitchen gives David the head's up that you may still be hungry and an additional dish is often sent out in which you'll be able to discover new flavors. In his twenty-five year career, David Bouley has satisfied with immense care and attention both kings and queens, stars and artists as well as his loyal customer fan-base. Let me reassure you that you'll never forget lunch or diner at Bouley!
Patricia Courcoux Lepic