Chef Daniel Boulud knows a city of food when he sees it: The Michelin-starred chef and restaurateur has more than 13 restaurants (and more) to his name, from New York to Singapore, but it’s no secret that the decorated chef has a weakness for Montreal. specifically.
We caught up with Chef Daniel Boulud and Chef Romain Cagnat, Maison Boulud’s new Executive Chef at the Ritz-Carlton, Montreal, to get a feel for what it takes to keep a successful restaurant decadent and reflecting local flavors, especially in a city as vibrant and rich as Montreal.
UKTN: Do you have any travel plans outside of New York or Quebec that you are particularly passionate about?
Daniel Boulud: Now that we have learned how to manage the pre-tests, the vaccinations and all that, it is not that difficult to travel and provided that we respect the rules and safety regulations, ”explains Boulud. “So of course I’m delighted to be returning to the Mediterranean and Asia. I am traveling to Asia next year, early next year as well, because I have a restaurant in Singapore and I want to go back to that region as well.
UKTN: What are your favorite Quebec ingredients?
Daniel Boulud: Whenever I come here, of course, I like any seasonal product from the Gaspé, so for example we have some lovely oysters from Prince Edward Island that we are serving right now. I have great products in New York, but the products in Quebec vary so much. It’s only a few hours by plane, but I think there are so many amazing products in this area. The cheese in Quebec is amazing and I love the seafood from the Gaspé.
UKTN: Are there any restaurants in Montreal that you like to go to when you’re here or dying to try?
Daniel Boulud: Sure! I love Montreal Plaza. I also have my alumni at Bar George, Kevin [Ramasawmy]. I haven’t been back to Joe Beef for a long time and David [McMillan] and Fred [Morin] are good friends. But when I come, I usually work and I don’t have a lot of time to be able to socialize with everyone.
Next time I’m in town, I want to spend a day seeing everyone; catch up. Maybe in the spring we will go to a hut a sweet and come together as we have done in the past.
UKTN: How do you capture the vibrancy of a city when deciding on a new location for a restaurant? What attracted you to Montreal so many years ago?
Daniel Boulud: I mean, of course, it doesn’t matter if I’m on vacation or opening a restaurant, the first thing I’ll do is go to the local farmer’s market.
I particularly like the Atwater Market in Montreal. I love seeing the local farmers, the distributors and the fishmongers, the butchers and whatever they carry with them.
I think the local market is the easiest way to get a feel for what the city is going through, you know? For example, if I go to Barcelona, if I go to Korea, I want to see what’s in the market because it gives me an indication of what I can expect to find for my restaurants.
UKTN: What sets Montreal apart from other places you’ve considered?
Daniel Boulud: There are the seasons, you know, so you kind of have to see the full spectrum of what’s available in the market all year round. It’s not like Florida, where, you know, there’s only one season.
UKTN: You have a lot of restaurants in the world! Are you struggling to let go of the reins and trust your local leaders to defend your original vision?
Daniel Boulud: It doesn’t matter if it’s my own restaurant in New York or if it’s in Montreal under the leadership of Chef Romain Cagnat, the chef takes care of the team, the menu, the creation of the dishes, relationships with suppliers… everything.
I do not provide a playbook. I never gave Romain a book that said “this is what you must do”. Because now the chef is in charge, it’s his own organization.
So of course we are a brand and I am the brand. I provide support and direction; if they come up with a menu and I don’t understand at all where we’re going, where he got this idea and what, then I intervene. But in general, with this group of restaurants, we can feed off each other’s inspiration and ideas.
We usually have menu meetings at least five times a year and during those menu meetings that sort of determines the direction of the season. And then the themes keep changing.