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Chef Daniel Boulud is a busy man. When he’s home in New York City, you’ll find him dawning his crisp white chef’s uniform in the kitchen at Daniel, his two Michelin-starred restaurants on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Or perhaps he’s running around the city tending to his other eateries, which include DB Bistro Moderne, Bar Boulud, and Boulud Sud. Catch him outside of the kitchen and he might be enjoying tapas at Hudson Yards’ new Mercado Little Spain, dining at James Kent’s buzzy new Crown Shy or celebrating a special occasion at Gunter Seeger or Gabriel, where he recently celebrated his 64th birthday.
With his empire of restaurants in Washington D.C., Boston, Palm Beach, Miami, Canada, and Singapore, Boulud, an American Express Global Dining Collection partner, is constantly traveling and eating well. His favorite destinations? Montreal and Brazil. And he finds culinary inspiration everywhere from Spain to Singapore. But for Boulud, there’s nothing like returning to his home town of Lyon, France.
When most people think of European and French cuisine in particular, Paris comes to the forefront. But Boulud sees something special and unusual in Lyon. “In Paris there is a lot of talent,” he said. “But in Lyon there is a lot of soul. There’s a very soulful thing about the food in Lyon, which I think is captured there better than in other cities.” Lyon is, in fact, an incredible yet often overlooked food city. There are upscale temples to gastronomy as well as casual bouchons, where you can find traditional Lyonnaise dishes at affordable prices.
“When I’m in the mood for gastronomy, I go to the tent-pole of all restaurants in France, which is L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges,” Boulud said. This three Michelin-starred restaurant more often known as Paul Bocuse is well worth a culinary pilgrimage. For fine dining, Boulud also recommends Le Suprème, where he happens to be a partner.
But what Boulud is perhaps most excited about in Lyon is a new generation of young chefs who play on old Lyonnaise traditions in new ways. “I think the food in Lyon keeps evolving and yet it keeps searching back… looking back to its history and past and learning from it,” Boulud said. He raved about several young restaurants including La Bijouterie, Au 14 Février for French-Japanese fusion, Le Neuvième Art, La Mère Brassiere, and Daniel et Denise. Then there’s La Meunière, which he calls his favorite bouchon and a great place for inexpensive yet delicious food.
Having been trained in some of France’s most prestigious kitchens like La Mère Blanc and Le Moulin de Mougins, Boulud knows a thing or two about French cuisine beyond Lyon. In fact, some of his most memorable culinary experiences have been in the country. He pointed to a meal at Maison Troigros in Ouches, France as one of those outstanding experiences. The restaurant moved into a new home about three years ago, Boulud explained. “It’s a restaurant with 70 years of history. There was so much about their past, and yet so much about everything feeling new again. There’s so much history, talent, and creativity, and genuine hospitality that you find in a place like that,” he said. He looked back on an evening at Les Flocons de Sel in Megève as another one of life’s most memorable meals.
For a man who’s dined and cooked in some of the finest kitchens around the world, what’s left to discover? Looking ahead, Boulud said he’d like to make a pilgrimage back to Alain Ducasse at l'Hôtel de Paris. “I knew the place when it started 35 years ago, but still today it’s so relevant," he said. “My bucket list is often to go down memory lane and relive the moment in a way that is different but also brings me back.”