Food and Leisure

Why Chef Daniel Boulud made us starstruck

FOOD FOR THOUGHT - Millie & Karla Reyes - The Philippine Star
Why Chef Daniel Boulud made us starstruck

World-renowned French chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud


MILLIE:  We were in New York recently for Karla’s graduation from the International Culinary Center, with commencement exercises held at the legendary and prestigious Carnegie Hall. There was thunderous applause and cheers as some 600 chefs proudly walked into the hall in their chef’s whites and toques. It gave me goose bumps. I could not help but shed tears of joy as I watched my Karla smiling confidently as she walked down the aisle and onstage. I was beaming with pride to learn that she graduated “with distinction.”

We celebrated at Daniel’s on 65th and Park Avenue, a two-Michelin-star restaurant owned by the legendary French celebrity chef and restaurateur, Daniel Boulud. He owns 15 other restaurants in cities like Washington DC, Las Vegas, Montreal, Palm Beach, and Singapore.

Trained by renowned French chefs Georges Blanc, Roger Verge and Michel Guerard, chef Boulud exudes an aura of pure elegance as he greets guests at his restaurant, dressed impeccably in his whites… but that’s getting ahead of the story.

KARLA:  As soon as mom and I got to the city, we went straight to the box office of Beautiful. I told mom that I was going to treat her to a musical and it had to be Beautiful: A Carole King Musical since she knew most of the songs. We were able to purchase rush tickets for the evening show at a very good price. We then had lunch at Bloomingdale’s and did a bit of shopping after. We walked a bit and ended up stopping for another snack, then continued on to walk in Central Park.

While taking a quick rest, we sat down on one of the benches. I decided to look up the dinner menu at Restaurant Daniel to plan what to order for dinner, as if we had not been eating the entire day. As soon as I looked it up, I read that men were supposed to wear jackets and that jeans and sneakers were not allowed.  I let out a big “Uh-oh” as I continued to read.  I did not know about the dress code since chef Ethan Koelbel was the one who arranged our reservation. I trained with him during my externship last year and he had recently moved to Restaurant Daniel.

I was not about to pass up dinner just because I was wearing sneakers. I didn’t want to seem rude by not following the dress code, either. Good thing mom had purchased a pair of shoes earlier that day. The fact that her feet are a size smaller than mine, I knew it would be uncomfortable. I figured it would only be uncomfortable walking to the table and I could change back to my shoes as soon as we stepped out of the restaurant. That shouldn’t have been a problem.

Oh, but it was. We went about our dinner and my toes were starting to cramp up. I would remove my heels from the shoes so my toes could stretch, but then after a while it felt like I was tiptoeing all throughout dinner. It was a small price to pay, though, for a Michelin-star experience, and not checking the dress code ahead of time. 

MILLIE:  The ambiance was definitely fine dining. Crisp white table linens, lights dimmed to set the mood. Wait staff gracefully performing efficient dining service and enjoying every moment of it. They were gracious enough to describe each dish on the menu instead of murmuring their lines as if it was some memorized script from a Broadway play.

The dinner was executed with elegance and flair.  As the waiter served your order, he stayed long enough tableside to hear your “oohs” and “ahs.” This was undoubtedly professional service at its best!

The food was exquisite and unparalleled.  It was a prix-fixe degustation menu and, for starters, we were served canapés and amuse-bouches beyond my imagination: poached shrimp, grilled celtuce, lime vinaigrette and marigold gem lettuce salad; celtuce soup with brioche tuile and peppercorn cream; smoked salmon with celtuce crudité, seaweed, sesame oil and saltwort. The black onion Parmesan sable with asparagus panna cotta and spinach fondue married with pickled red onion and micro parsley more than tickled my palate.

For my next course, I chose the Maine lobster salad with coconut-fennel panna cotta in a coral cream with pickled Buddha hand lemon. The salt-baked Snake River sturgeon with Cardamine and white sturgeon caviar laced with Swiss chard and vodka mousseline was simply divine.

It seemed like forever as the meal progressed and did not seem to end. My main course of choice, which I thoroughly enjoyed, was Colorado lamb chop with “Pezenas Tourte,” black trumpet mushrooms, braised greens, garlic confit and tarragon butter.

I was excited to try the dessert, which the maitre d’hotel described as a new interpretation of my forever-favorite dessert, lemon tart. Daniel’s pastry chef created a tarte citron meringuée with Mexican vanilla sable, light basil lemon cream and passion-berry meringue. But it didn’t stop there. Petits fours and chocolates kept flowing in and Karla and I suddenly realized we had to go or we would be late for our Broadway show Beautiful by Carole King.

KARLA:  For my appetizer I had the slow-poached Maine sea scallops with parsley vinaigrette, purple potatoes, sea beans and yuzu marmalade. I love how the scallops were made into a roulade. I also ordered the roasted quail breast with minted pea puree, garlic chive oil, Espelette pepper, nettle ravioli and crispy bacon. And for my main course, I ordered the Scharbaeuer Ranch Wagyu strip loin, with a bone marrow soubise, California carrots, Cipollini onion and bordelaise sauce.

Mom and I purposely ordered different things on the menu so we could try everything. Between the two of us, we tasted practically the entire menu. For dessert, I had the Illanka, which is made of Peruvian dark chocolate-Espelette cremeux, a blackberry-orange blossom sorbet and cocoa moelleux. Everything was fantastic!

At the end of our dinner, mom and I noticed a chef in uniform walk up to the table beside us. Though his back was turned, I knew in my stomach that it was chef Daniel. As he walked back towards the kitchen, mom hurriedly stood up and asked our waiter if that was chef Daniel and if we could take a photo with him. Seconds later, chef Daniel reappeared from the kitchen and ushered us into the lobby for a photo. Little did I know that my toes were no longer curled up in my mom’s shoes! I was so in awe of chef Daniel that I didn’t realize I had stretched my mom’s shoes and that my feet now fit perfectly into them!

Chef Daniel not only obliged us for a photo; he even asked the receptionist to print us a copy of the menu and autographed it for us. We talked about food, mostly, and how I had just graduated from the International Culinary Center. He mentioned that I should have worked with him, which is what I really wanted to do. Mom and I invited him to visit the Philippines. I was so starstruck that I was actually stuttering. I felt like I was processing so many thoughts and emotions that I couldn’t keep up with what I wanted to say.

MILLIE:  It was the same for me. I was also so starstruck that I had forgotten my French! Meeting chef Daniel Boulud in person was simply awesome and I wished we could have stayed on to chat some more with him and exchange ideas about our profession. He strikes me as a very compassionate man. Dignified. Karla and I were lucky to have met chef Daniel and experience his cuisine par excellence!



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Send email to milliereyes.foodforthought@gmail.com and quichethecook.ph@gmail.com. Find us on Facebook:  Food for Thought by Millie & Karla Reyes.

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