For many years, Andrew Carmellini helmed Cafe Boulud. Here, he talks about his experience.
Question: What did you learn from Daniel Boulud?
Andrew Carmellini: Well, you know, Daniel, when I started, I didn’t work at Restaurant Daniel, he hired me to be the chef at Café Boulud. So at that point in my career, you know, I had plenty of offers to go do my own thing by myself at that point. I was 28, I had been working for ten good straight years, a couple of years in Europe, and, you know, I wanted to open and operate a restaurant as the chef, but with another chef to have that, you know, that experience. So a lot of the things I learned from Daniel were about the business end of things, and he gave me a lot of freedom there, you know, the six years I was there. I co-opened the restaurant with Alex Lee at the time and then a couple of months later he went to Daniel. But Daniel gave me a lot of freedom to really cook the way I wanted to cook within the parameters in the restaurant, and it’s really where I, you know, I did what I loved to do, which is I love Mexico, I love Thai food, I’ve been to Japan three times-- not that I believe in fusion cooking, but it was more about, you know, just extracting in a kind of anthropological way the things I love about different countries through the flavor profile and in cooking that way. You know, my mentors really, you know, I think the biggest mentoring, or the biggest influence really in my cooking life was Gray Kunz at Lespinasse in the early ‘90s. I worked there for three years and that was really like culinary wise I think the, cooking wise a big big part, besides the European years, but really in New York that kind of shaped me.
Question: What did you learn from him?
Andrew Carmellini: Just about layering flavors and, you know, again in the kitchen a certain sense of professionalism, and it’s really flavor building, texture building. And it was a hot kitchen in the early ‘90s. It was the place to be, and I think a lot of techniques from there have stood the test of time I think, so it was good for me. I think they use the spice, you know, and Floyd Cardoza was working there then as a cook and he, and there were a lot of great cooks that went through there at that time. But Floyd and Gray started collaborated on a lot of spice usage, which, you know, a lot of techniques that I learned there, you know, Indian techniques, Thai techniques, to treat those things properly I think in the context. You know, cooking something Indian as opposed to cooking something Thai, and you approach a northern Thai curry differently than you would a Goan curry, that they’re not the same, that curry isn’t some ubiquitous word that means spices thrown in a broth and that’s it, there’s a way to approach it, a flavor profile to approach it, which was great.
Question: What did Daniel Boulud teach you about the business side?
Andrew Carmellini: Well, I mean, I really think it’s, you know, Daniel really has an empire really, and the way he managed to keep the quality and the way he manages, you know, to keep his concepts successful individually, and it was just really looking at the business from a whole, you know? Because there’s the art of making food and there’s the business of making food, and it’s really two separate things that have to kind of coexist, and just watching that whole process happen was a real eye opener.