Superstar Chef Daniel Boulud talks to me about Montreal, his restaurant here – Maison Boulud, and where he goes to kick back with friends Martin Picard and Normand Laprise after a long day. Plus, he gives us his picks for Montrealers visiting New York City and looking to eat out.
In Montreal, there are so many amazing restaurants opening up all the time, it’s such a dynamic food scene. What do you think makes the Montreal food scene so special?
Oh it’s the people, it’s their passion for food. It’s also the chefs, suppliers, and local food that gives the catalyst for creativity and provides local pride. I think in NYC we have that but it’s not always the same strong relationship or identity within the terroir. The conviviality here, and the kindness of people and lack of pretentiousness makes you feel so comfortable and at ease.
Are there any restaurants you like to visit while you are in Montreal?
Well, I always have my classic friends and places. I’ve known Martin (Picard) for a long time, and Normand Laprise of course, and the Joe Beef boys.
When you were making the menu here did you try to incorporate more Quebec ingredients?
Yes, absolutely. All dishes have the DNA of Daniel but it’s not a carbon copy. Every restaurant starts by going to the farmers market – we went to Jean Talon and we went to Atwater. Then we have to decide – we like this veal, we like that pork etc. There were certain ingredients we knew we wanted already because we work with them in New York. The duck, the foie gras, the porcelet from Gaspor, the cerf de boileau… And after that for example, the chicken! We test so many chickens to make sure it’s the one we want and like, from the farmer we want. So we leave New York with an idea of the menu but then we have to find the right ingredients to make it work, otherwise we just scratch it.
So do you change the menu with the seasons?
Yes, we are spontaneous, we can change the menu everyday if we want but we don’t change the entire menu just because spring is coming. We are just going to change dishes as the ingredients come in. Because we just change the dishes we feel we are better in tune with the quality of the product, rather than in the old days where we would say ‘Oh Spring is Coming – we have to change the entire menu!’ Just because spring is coming doesn’t mean certain vegetables will be ready at that time.
Do you have input in the menu when it changes or does Chef Bertollino (Executive Chef at Maison Boulud)?
Chef Bertollino also has input. No chef can say that they have created everything they make. No, for me we work as a team, and anyone who has a good idea, that idea can be integrated into an idea for a dish. We compose the dish together.
I’ve seen an episode of a show you did called After Hours with Daniel. Is there anywhere you go in Montreal after you’ve had a long night?
Absolutely, we go to Big in Japan and meet with other friends and party there.
Daniel Boulud’s Top Restaurants to Visit while in New York
On New York restaurants:
“New York has so many restaurants, it’s very exciting. People open restaurants because they think they can make money, or it’s the business to do right now and that is the most ridiculous thing to think.”
Stay tuned for part two on Friday where we look at feeding truffles and caviar to babies, his daughter baking brownies for friends in the Daniel kitchens, and his favourite ways with potatoes…
Maison Boulud, Ritz-Carlton Montreal, 1288 Sherbooke West, Montreal 514-842-4224