While the food may come first, the experience of dining at one of my restaurants also relies on two additional elements: the service and the décor
It’s a sign of the times that the saying “if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere” has changed to “if you can make it in China, you can make it anywhere.”When people ask me what I was thinking when I decided to open my first overseas restaurant in Beijing, I simply tell them that if I had the guts to come to New York, then I certainly have the guts to go to China. Of course, the opening of Maison Boulud will not be without its challenges. We are dealing with an entirely different set of ingredients, and introducing our talented Chinese staff to our style of service. It’s a little bit of culture shock and a lot of jet lag.
But we are also dealing with an incredible site. Set just minutes from the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, the restaurant’s location is the former American Embassy to the Qing Dynasty. It is where Henry Kissinger conducted secret meetings with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and where the Dalai Lama was in residence from 1951 to 1959. It is an absolute honor to be able to call such an iconic setting my Maison à Pékin,
At Maison Boulud, you will find the ethos of my other restaurants—unpretentious, but with caring service in an ambience that is elegant without being overly formal. As for the food, it will be French cooking that reflects the fact that I have been cooking in America for more than 25 years now. Only in Beijing will we sometimes cook my kind of French food with Asian ingredients. We have spent months scouring the region for the finest foods from within China and around the Pacific Rim. Whether I am cooking in New York or in Asia, my signature remains my French spirit combined with seasonal produce, local whenever possible, but above all, the best that I can find. I begin with the quality of the ingredients as my foundation and from there, my cooking is driven by flavor and by making sure the food is always full of soul.
While the food may come first, the experience of dining at one of my restaurants also relies on two additional elements: the service and the décor. I am fortunate to have none other than Ignace Lecleir, Restaurant Daniel’s general manager for three years, and Executive Chef Brian Reimer, also formerly of Restaurant Daniel in New York, in the Beijing locale. The décor was conceived by the Parisian design team of Patrick Gilles and Dorothée Boissier, and plays upon the stately and historic architecture of the Legation Quarter.
So if your travels bring you to Beijing, especially with the upcoming Olympics, do stop by Maison Boulud. If traveling half-way around the world is not on your agenda this season, perhaps a trip to Vancouver, or a far shorter trip to Café Boulud Palm Beach, is more your style. More news on my plans for these restaurant destinations soon!