Tte tte with Daniel Boulud in Montreal

Notable just experienced the ultimate foodie fantasy.

One of the world’s most renowned chefs, Daniel Boulud, agreed to a tête-à-tête during his most recent visit to Montreal hot-spot, Maison Boulud.

And with his impeccable double breasted chef’s coat and his beguiling accent, Chef Boulud dazzled us with culinary tips, wine-list tricks, a new ingredient called organic charcoal, and of course, the perfect meal to make your date fall in love… 

What do I cook to make my date fall in love with me?
You want to cook a soulful dish, something delicate, seasonal, and most importantly, something that brings you back to your roots and your childhood memories of food.

Maybe a one-pot meal, a slow braise, something that will make your entire house smell delicious so that your date will be stricken by the aroma. A braise is a good choice because you can leave it slowly cooking in the oven and eat it when you’re ready. 

Keep the ingredients simple and natural. Leave the vegetables whole. Look for fresh ingredients, contrasting textures, and on the first date, add a little heat – maybe some cayenne. If you don’t have a family recipe, it’s important to use the right cookbook like Braise by Daniel Boulud. Then of course, choose a good bottle of wine. 

For dessert, a great idea is a sundae – they’re romantic and nostalgic. Buy your favourite ice creams, then go to a bakery and buy your favourite cookies and biscuits. In a glass, layer the ice creams with the broken cookies, then top it with some sauce, a dust of cocoa powder, and maybe a homemade whipped cream. Then you can add some grated chocolate. 

Restaurant wine lists can be daunting. What’s your advice for selecting a good wine?
Never be intimidated to talk to the sommelier and say what you like. You trust your hairdresser to cut your hair, and you trust your butcher to give you a good cut of meat, you should trust the sommelier to find you a bottle you will enjoy. You can even give the sommelier a price range and ask him to surprise you. You should also make it a point to learn what you like. Take some notes; take pictures of bottles you like. 

Quick tip: Take advantage of the wine by the glass program. The restaurant has selected these wines because they like them and each is a good representation of the type of wine. Also, if the glass is reasonably priced, the bottle will be as well. 

A lot of young professionals don’t have time to follow complex recipes. Is there a dish I can cook in 30 minutes that will make me look like a Michelin star chef?
Cook a one-pot meal, like a stir-fry. You can use chicken breast, potatoes, onions, asparagus. There are tricks to reducing cooking time. A potato can take a long time to cook, but if you slice it up, it takes much less time. In a stir-fry, you can cut everything into pieces so, within a very short time, everything is done. 

Do you ever use the microwave?
For some things, yes. To defrost ice cream, heat water, temper butter. For popcorn, and sometimes, its great for baked potato. Just wrap the potato in a paper towel, poke it, and in ten minutes, it’s ready. 

You have over 30K followers on Instagram. Do you run your own accounts?
Yes, I do it. I follow Mario Batali and he does so many things on social media, it makes me wonder should I do these things? They want me to do the ice bucket challenge! 

Who are your favourite people to follow?
Vik Muniz, an artist from Brazil. My sommelier from bar Boulud, Michael Madrigale. Felipe Massa from Formula 1. Mario Batali, José Andrés (he’s pretty wild). Éric Ripert. Tony Bourdain. 

You’re a French-born chef with New York flair. How do you feel about the classic-French-meets-American concoction, the cronut?
It’s very cool. Dominic [Ansel, former head pastry chef at Daniel] has always been a witty and intelligent person. Have you seen his new creation, the cookie shot? I love it…I don’t think I would do it, but mainly, I’m very happy for his success. 

There’s a big push for vegetarian and vegan cuisine. Is that something you consider in your cuisine?
I was raised on a farm so I always use a lot of vegetables in my cooking. I can make an amazing vegetarian tasting menu, a crescendo of cold to warm dishes, with complex compositions. You can travel the world and discover different traditions of cooking vegetables everywhere you go. I would be very open to the idea of a vegetarian restaurant. 

Are there any specific ingredients you like working with in Montreal?
Sirop d’érable, seafood from Gaspesie – a lot of the meat we use comes from the Northeast Ontario region. A lot of our vegetable suppliers are local, many from the Jean Talon market. 

Are you working with any new, exciting ingredients?
Organic charcoal from Japan. We recently celebrated DBGB‘s 5th anniversary with a rock and roll party. I created an all-black menu – boack duck, black buns, all black hot-dogs. It was the first time I did that. 

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
An artist. I love wood, stone, and steel. I love crafts. If I weren’t a chef, I would find another way to express myself artistically. 


Cover Image by: Timothée Auguet

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