Starchefs, a website devoted to professional chefs, has begun an interesting new series of articles devoted to the nation's "Mythic Kitchens." The articles will explore historic eras in famous kitchens---times when the stars lined up just right to combine the kind of food and chefs that helped build the definition of American cuisine.
First up in the series is an article by Heather Sperling that examines New York City's Le Cirque under Chef Daniel Boulud (whose legendary years at Le Cirque were 1986-1992). Below you'll find the first two paragraphs, and you can continue reading here.
Le Cirque, 1989
It’s 8:30pm, and kitchen of Le Cirque is working at a frenetic, feverish pace. The pre-theater crush has passed, the tourists are midway through their meals, and the crème de la New York crème have just settled into their coveted 8pm seats. Owner Sirio Maccioni strides into the kitchen: “Chef! I forgot to tell you that Paul Bocuse and Roger Verge are here, and the King of Spain is going to be 12 people, not eight.” Daniel Boulud nods tersely. As soon as Maccioni disappears back onto the dining room floor, the chef begins tearing through boxes of produce picked up at the market that morning. Truffles, foie gras, and Tuscan lardo di Colonnata, smuggled into the country after Maccioni’s last trip to Italy, are gathered and lie ready to be spun into special courses for the VIPs. As the kitchen buzzes around him, cooking for the nearly 100 other guests, Boulud puts down his head and begins to create. It’s 1989, and it’s just another night at Le Cirque.
“Sirio was such an unpredictable madman,” says Boulud, “and the greatest restaurateur in New York City.” Le Cirque always was—and remains—Maccioni’s creation. It was 12 years old in 1986 when Boulud took over for Alain Sailhac, and critic Bryan Miller had praised it in a recent three-star New York Times review: “Nowhere in the United States, nor anywhere else as far as I have seen, is there a dining room that crackles with the high-voltage energy of Le Cirque.” The restaurant was utterly vogue; the food, under Sailhac, was mid-century French with a touch of Italian, by request of the Tuscany-born Maccioni... Continue reading
The Culinary Gadabout Recommends: Want to cook like Daniel Boulud? A good place to start is with Daniel Boulud's Cafe Boulud Cookbook: French-American Recipes for the Home Cook. Says Publisher's Weekly: "Echoing the French-American accent of food from his casual Café Boulud, the New York City chef also acclaimed for Restaurant Daniel encourages home cooks to prepare meals as he does, by attending to four inspirations: his own French tradition, seasonal foodstuffs, international flavors and the kitchen garden."