Take a glimpse into Daniel Boulud’s world in Daniel: My French Cuisine (Grand Central Publishing), and you’ll find 87 recipes set against 125 stunning photos in a four-part cookbook. It includes the best recipes from Boulud’s signature New York restaurant, Daniel; 10 essays by the toque about everything from bread to truffles; four seasonal menus that Boulud cooks at home; and an “Iconic Sessions” section in which writer Bill Buford recounts a journey to recreate 10 traditional French dishes.
Already heralded as one of the award-winning chef’s most personal books, expect to glean more than recipes from this portrait of a culinary culture.
How do you define French cooking?
French cooking is about tradition but also haute cuisine — from popular bistro to a more sophisticated gastro. French cooking has a lot of depth in history and diversity of talent. That talent has been exported for nearly four decades and influences many new generations of young chefs in many other countries.
Paul Bocuse wrote the forward. What impact has he had on your culinary career?
He has been a lifetime supporter of my career and to the community of chefs in France and abroad. He brought his passion to America 40 years ago and continues to be an influence for young American chefs, even having the restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America recently named in his honour.
What did you hope to achieve with this cookbook? Did you succeed?
I think I succeeded, yes. I wanted to capture ‘the moment’ at Daniel during its 20 years, to stage a recollection of sessions in the kitchen that would be entertaining, inspiring and interesting, and [I wanted to] highlight France’s regional soul with the more casual cooking I do at home.
What is your favourite recipe in the book and why?
I love all parts of the book; it was a true labour of love for me and my team. But, sometimes, I connect more intimately and personally with the Iconic Sessions, because they are related to my cultural past.
What has been your greatest lesson about French cooking in your career?
Don’t take any of the hard work and passion for granted.
Classic French cooking doesn’t seem as popular as it used to be. Why is it still important to learn the fundamentals of this iconic cuisine?
I don’t know if I agree it is less popular; there are now other cuisines that have risen to similar interest. Ultimately, it is easy to make food that has no reference. What makes French cooking enduring is it has a reference and great cooks know how to use it.