10 Questions: Daniel Boulud

Daniel Boulud has 11 bars and restaurants in New York City alone. He has spots in Boston, London, Miami, Montreal, Palm Beach, D.C., Toronto and Singapore. He has more Michelin stars and awards than he can keep track of. He has a piece of Team USA’s first-ever Bocuse d’Or gold medal. But there’s one thing he has that outranks all of that. He has a great time, particularly at Pebble Beach.

How would you describe the quality and quantity of the wine at PBFW to someone on the street?

You get the greatest chefs and sommeliers in the U.S. participating, giving seminars, so it’s like going on a retreat. It’s always an education, an amazing education.

What makes PBFW different?

Maybe Dave Bernahl.

Best compliment you’ve received?

When a customer makes a reservation on the way out.

Most underrated ingredient?

Potato. You can basically do it in 1,000 ways and then another 1,000 ways. There’s nothing better than crushed potato with a little butter, truffle and a little sea salt.

Hardest lesson you’ve learned in your career?

The most difficult is to learn to say “no.” I’m still trying very hard. We’re in the business of hospitality, so we have been brought up with the sense of not to say no to a customer, but sometimes it’s good.

Most Zen-like cooking practice for you?

Sunday morning at home making scrambled eggs. I take 20 minutes to scramble five or six eggs. When they’re perfectly curdled and runny enough and fully cooked but very fine grain, then I add salt and pepper, creme fraiche, chives, lemon zest, and a spoon of caviar. I grill a big toast and to me that is it.

Three things you can’t live without in the kitchen?

Microplane is always handy. You can bring flavor to something in an easy way. Microplane truffle, citrus, vegetable, wasabi, radish, cheese, anything you want. A good knife. A good pot.

Out of the kitchen?

I wish it was not my phone. (Pause.) My espresso machine. My watch. My carry-on bag.

What makes you feel most alive?

When I get out of town and I’m getting into the zone of zero pressure. Or when I go back to France – maybe not more alive, but it jolts me with excitement.

Last meal?

Back home in France, a lot of charcuterie, everything from the garden, homemade ham, chicken we raised, booze we made ourselves. A lot of homemade stuff.

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