The Feed interview: Daniel Boulud

Daniel Boulud (left) hearts Jim Leiken. (Photo: Bobby Lapointe)
Daniel Boulud, left, hearts Jim Leiken. (Photo: Bobby Lapointe)

First, the Feed delivered crucial first details on Daniel Boulud's Bowery endeavor. Now that DBGB's up and running, the Feed touches base with chef, mogul and sausage king Daniel Boulud on his first day serving lunch to the downtown crowd.

The Feed: What's the been response to DBGB so far?
Daniel Boulud: A lot of chefs come in, which tells me that this place is really made for guys like me who like to hang out late at night with a beer and great food. We've pared down the complexity we create uptown and kept good and simple cuisine. Our biggest sellers are the burgers and sausages. Offal is also popular, as are marrow bones.

You started serving lunch today. The menu?
We'll have sandwiches, sausages and seafood but also a three-dish prix fixe at $24 during Restaurant Week. It's not midtown and we'll have to learn about this lunch crowd—people may have more time for a leisurely lunch; they may eat later. I think DBGB will become a destination for lunch.

Read on for more...
You just won a James Beard Outstanding Service Award for Daniel. What's outstanding service at a place like DBGB?
People are surprised that just after a few weeks, the staff shows so much confidence. The key is the knowledge of the menu and the wine list. For me, good service is efficient and discreet, it's that critical balance. As soon as the client sits down, the communication flow has to start. Customers need to feel that the waiters are supervised, that there's a system in place.

Any great chef to watch?
I am very proud of Jim Leiken. He has worked with me for six years and has been patient enough to learn the ropes. He's now matured into a true chef and is working on building his team. To me, there's no great chef without a great team.

Enough about DBGB—what's new at Caf Boulud?
Well, this is my "total remake" year. After the renovation of Daniel, Caf Boulud is turning ten and will get a complete renovation and expansion this fall. The feel of the elegant caf will remain, but at the entrance of the bar we're adding 60 seats. There will be an entrance onto the street with a few tables outside, but also onto the lobby of the Surrey Hotel. There will be a separate bar menu with a Harry's Bar--style atmosphere. And in honor of Restaurant Week, Caf Boulud will feature a $24 prix-fixe lunch until it closes for renovations in August.

Any more Boulud outposts outside of New York?
DB Bistro Moderne will open in 2010 in downtown Miami, but yes, there are things in the works.

How do you feel about the desire of the public to see what happens in the kitchen?
At Daniel, we have the skybox where one party can dine literally above the kitchen, but I like what we have at DBGB; the kitchen is open but not really open. There's some visual action and I love that!—Sylvie Bigar