Michelin Star Chef on Pursuing Your Dreams, Developing Your Skills, and Lessons Learned from Mentors | Chef Daniel Boulud on What Got You There with Sean DeLaney

Check out What Got You There Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  • Be Patient: It took Daniel roughly a decade to open up his first restaurant
    • Working with young chefs gave Daniel the confidence that by working together, they could make it in America
  • Study your mentors 
    • “Since I started to be a chef, I always observed my mentor very carefully and also the leading people carefully in their organization” – Daniel Boulud
      • “When you start to understand the thought process of someone, I think you learn a lot from it”
  • If you’re a young chef, understand the expectations of the restaurant, your boss, and the customers
  • The food is the most important thing in a restaurant, but also keep in mind the ambiance, service, and price of the food
    • At the end of the day, restaurants are in the entertainment business
      • “We are cooking and entertaining you for a couple of hours” – Daniel Boulud
  • The hard truth about being a great chef:
    • “When you think of great chefs in the world, you don’t really remember them for the thousands and thousands of dishes they’ve cooked. You only remember them for one or two dishes.” Daniel Boulud

Intro

Books Mentioned

Daniel’s Early Years

  • Daniel fondly remembers growing up on a farm in France. He didn’t know he wanted to be a chef but he knew he loved food.
    • “I always felt that there was entertainment within the rhythm of the farm, there was never a dull moment” – Daniel Boulud
      • His grandmother would constantly be kitchen cooking and  Daniel developed his passion for cooking from her
        • “By the time I was fourteen, I decided that I wanted to be a cook”
  • Daniel’s friend was able to get him a job in a two-star Michelin restaurant
    • At 14 years old, he had to manage working at the restaurant, taking 12-hour shifts, 6 days a week and also going to school 2 days a week
      • In the restaurant, I was interested by everything”Daniel Boulud
        • Daniel’s job involved going to the market to pick up food for the restaurant and he often bumped into famous chefs including Paul Bocuse
  • By 15, he was included in the team that cooked for the President of France
    • By 19, Daniel was working in Copenhagen at the Copenhagen Plaza. After a year and a half, he went back to France for several years but then returned to Copenhagen. 

Tips For Success

  • Be Patient: It took Daniel roughly a decade to open up his first restaurant
    • Working with young chefs gave Daniel the confidence that by working together, they could make it in America
      • “Still today, I am always driven by my team, by the people working with me” – Daniel Boulud
  • Be detail-oriented
    • “Of course I wanted to get involved in everything including knowing where the plumbing is passing in the restaurant, and how they are placing the electrical”  – Daniel Boulud
      • He knows how to read a blueprint and talk with engineers 
  • Study your mentors 
    • “Since I started to be a chef, I always observed my mentor very carefully and also the leading people carefully in their organization” – Daniel Boulud
      • “When you start to understand the thought process of someone, I think you learn a lot from it”
  • If you’re a young chef, understand the expectations of the restaurant, your boss, and the customers
  • The food is the most important thing in a restaurant, but also keep in mind the ambiance, service, and price of the food
    • At the end of the day, restaurants are in the entertainment business
      • “We are cooking and entertaining you for a couple of hours” – Daniel Boulud
        • Also, remember each customer is unique, and some may want more privacy than others
  • Where does Daniel find the inspiration for new dishes?
    • Reading old cookbooks
    • Traveling to different places
    • Instagram (for trends)

Coming To America

  • Daniel came to America when he was 25 to work as a private chef in D.C. He earned a small salary but he was happy to get a visa and come to the US.
    • After two years as a private chef, Daniel worked as a sous chef at a New York City hotel
      • However, Daniel wanted to do even more: “I wanted to work in a restaurant and not just in a hotel with a restaurant”
        • From 1986 to 1992, Daniel was a critically acclaimed executive chef at Le Cirque. He cooked for Nancy Reagan, Barbara Walters, the king of Spain, Michael Douglass, and many others.
          • Since many guests were powerful people, Daniel had to learn how to seat certain guests, who didn’t like one another, away from each other

The Hard Truth About Being A Great Chef

  • “When you think of great chefs in the world, you don’t really remember them for the thousands and thousands of dishes they’ve cooked. You only remember them for one or two dishes.” Daniel Boulud
    • “We create so many things but few dishes are sticking in your repertoire and people don’t want you to take them away”

What Got You There with Sean DeLaney : , , , , , , , , , ,
Notes By Alex Wiec

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