POWER PLAYERS: CHEFS – Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Kurt Gutenbrunner

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 Cooking and running restaurants is definitely a team sport. You don’t go it alone.

Chef Daniel Boulud

Daniel Boulud is the Chef and Owner of numerous award-winning restaurants and the Feast & Fêtes catering company. Although he hails from France, the US was fast to name him one of the top culinary greats of our time, bringing his French roots and contemporary flair to the states. With his exclusive, 3-Star Michelin restaurant DANIEL in New York and a handful of other successful eateries throughout the city, Boulud continues to impress New Yorkers with culinary prestige and class above the rest. Beyond Manhattan, the chef has equally as popular restaurants in Florida, Beijing, Singapore, and London. Boulud’s culinary accolades include James Beard Foundation awards for “Outstanding Restaurant,” “Outstanding Restaurateur,” “Best Chef, New York City” and “Outstanding Chef of the Year.” In addition, he has been named “Chef of the Year” by the Culinary Institute of America and Chevalier de la Légiond’Honneur by the French government. In addition, Boulud’s culinary style has graced the pages of his six cookbooks and the “After Hours with Daniel” television series. With a reputation of excellence, this French chef is at the top of the culinary charts.

How did you get your start in the culinary world?

I did actually start out going to culinary school, but it wasn’t for me. I couldn’t believe the food there wasn’t even half as good as what my grandmother made at home so I needed to find another route. A family friend who bought produce from my parent’s farm helped arrange an apprenticeship for me at the two Michelin star [rated], Nandron, one of the truly great restaurants in Lyon at the time. I was 14 years old and on my way.

What is your favorite dish to cook? To eat?

That’s not fair. No way I can name just one. I’d have to pick something for each season and setting. But on a year-round basis, I would have to say charcuterie. That’s what led to our charcuterie counter at Bar Boulud and more recently, all the house-made terrines and pâtés we are now offering for the first time to-go at ÉpicerieBoulud. A must-have is the “jambonneau,” a small, slow roasted and breaded pork shank.

In your opinion, what makes a successful restaurant?

A place where you find consistent quality and value. I consider DBGB, where you go for sausages and beer, of the same quality as DANIEL, where you may go for a luxurious tasting menu. Definitely not the same refinement, but the same level of care and caring for the guest.

You can never be found without your…

Cooks!

Cooking and running restaurants is definitely a team sport. You don’t go it alone. And I am very lucky to have some superb team players.

Share your favorite memory as a chef.

On Labor Day weekend in the summer of 1990, Alain Ducasse gathered an incredible roster of chefs at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco to prepare a 70th birthday celebration for Craig Claiborne. I think we were close to 50 chefs and restaurateurs. It was amazing. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I have to credit my friend, photographer Melanie Dunea for hosting some very decadent parties by chefs and for chefs to celebrate her “Last Supper” books. Let’s just say the last one involved a lady in a bathtub full of melted chocolate.

When you’re not cooking, where do you dine?

Chez les amis [the places of my friends], such as the newly redesigned Le Bernardin, Jean Georges or Eleven Madison Park, which just got it’s third Michelin star. Bravo Daniel Humm, he deserves it. On the more casual side, Aldea for George Mendez’s Portuguese cooking, or Sushi Seki for late night after work.

What’s next for you?

My bartender Xavier Herit and I have just finished our new book, “Cocktails and Amuse-Bouches for Her and for Him.” Come have a drink with us in the bar.

Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten

Jean-Georges Vongerichten is one of the most famous chefs worldwide although his skills extend beyond the kitchen as a successful businessman and restauranteur. As the man behind numerous three- and four-star restaurants, it’s only natural that some of his earliest childhood memories involve food. Having trained at the famed L’Auberge de l’Ill and with renowned Chefs and worked at some of Asia’s top hotel restaurants, Vongerichten used his travel to influence and create his signature flair for French and Eastern inspired cuisine.

Vongerichten has partnered with Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc. to develop international, multi-concept restaurant and licensing businesses for Starwood’s luxury hotel brands and for freestanding locations throughout the world, in addition to his partnership with the Matsushita brothers, famed Japanese restaurateurs, to open Matsugen in New York City, all while continuing to produce fresh and innovative concepts in every aspect of his own popular restaurants. Recently, he opened two new restaurants in New York City – The Mark by Jean-Georges, at the Mark Hotel, and ABC Kitchen. Vongerichten’s reputation is as remarkable as his food and restaurant’s design which always boasts his forward-thinking vision that has revolutionized fine dining in New York and around the world.

How did you get your start in the culinary world?

I began my career in the culinary world at 16 years old. On my 16th birthday my parents took me to a 3-Star Michelin restaurant and from that point on my passion for the industry flourished. I trained in a work-study program at the L’Auberge de l’Ill and as an apprentice to Chef Paul Haeberlin. I went on to work under Paul Bocuse and Master Chef Louis Outhier at L’Oasis in southern France. With impressive 3-star Michelin training, I traveled to Asia and took positions at the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok, the Meridien Hotel in Singapore, and the Mandarin Hotel in Hong Kong.

What is your favorite dish to cook? To eat?

I enjoy cooking a meal in one pot such as stews, placing them on the table and having everyone serve themself. My favorite dish to eat is chicken and potatoes.

In your opinion, what makes a successful restaurant?

In order for a restaurant to be successful it must have a refined idea and specialized vision. The cuisine or a specific dish must create a craving that keeps people coming back. I feel that this combined with food consistency, perfect service and a beautiful ambiance creates success.

You can never be found without your…

I cannot live without a Vita-Prep in my kitchen. I have one at home, in the country and in every restaurant. I also can always be found with my iPhone and iPad.

Share your favorite memory as a chef.

A few favorite memories stick out in my mind; my first day in the kitchen at 16 years old, the day I received my 3-star Michelin six years ago and first my feature in the New York Times.

When you’re not cooking, where do you dine?

I like to dine at simple places around New York City. My favorite sushi restaurant is Sushi Seki on the Upper East Side. I also enjoy grabbing a quick bite from Balthazar and Marea.

What’s next for you?

I recently opened Pump Room in Chicago and am opening a location in St. Barts next month. I am always open to new ideas and take opportunities as they come.

Chef Kurt Gutenbrunner

Kurt Gutenbrunner is the culinary chef, co-owner and mastermind behind New York City’s Wallsé, Café Sabarsky, BlaueGans, The Upholstery Store and Café Kristall. Gutenbrunner sounds off on his newest literary venture, his night cooking for Sir Elton John and where he dines when he’s not behind the stove. Having grown up with garden-fresh cooking in a small village on the Danube River, Gutenbrunner’s passion for food has always been a magnetic force in his life. By creating a fusion between cuisine and the arts, Gutenbrunner presents dishes that tantalize both the eye and the senses. At age 15 he decided to become a chef, and enrolled in a professional hotel and restaurant school, receiving a degree in culinary arts two years later. At 16 the young chef apprenticed at the Relaiset Chateau Richard Löwenherz in the Wachau Region where he learned about the local wines, which he still incorporates into his menus today. It was during his venture to Vienna where he worked with Chef Werner Matt, the man credited for establishing modern Austrian cuisine, at the Rotisserie PrinzEugen that Gutenbrunner helped the restaurant receive its first Michelin star. Soon Gutenbrunner began working at the three Michelin star and Munich’s finest fare, Tantris. He was then hired at the renowned Windows of the World’s Cellar in the Sky restaurant and a year later he joined David Bouley’s team, helping them raise their New York Times ratings from 2 stars to 4 stars. With a yearning for understanding exotic cuisine, he began working at Munich’s Asian-influenced restaurant Mangostin with his own staff of 25 Vietnamese cooks and ingredient experts. Six years later he moved back to New York to become the culinary director of David Bouley’s company. Gutenbrunner received the title of Executive Chef at Monkey Bar and continues to thrive in the culinary world of New York City.

How did you get your start in the culinary world?

I enrolled in a hotel and restaurant school at age 14, did an apprenticeship at Relais et Chateau Richard Löwenherz in the Wachau region, then worked in top kitchens in Switzerland, Austria and Germany before coming to America.

What is your favorite dish to cook? To eat?

Austria is landlocked, so [after] living in New York City for so many years, I’m particularly partial to all the great fresh fish you can get here. That said, my all-time favorite dish is venison stew with red cabbage and bread dumplings.

In your opinion, what makes a successful restaurant?

A good restaurant is one where the diner consistently experiences excellent food, service and atmosphere. This usually requires a strong leader and constant vigilance.

You can never be found without your…

Picture of my four children and a pair of vibrant-colored socks.

Share your favorite memory as a chef.

It was the night Elton John, Karl Lagerfeld and Bruce Weber all dined together at Wallsé.  Elton John gave me a hug and kiss as a thank you for the meal.

When you’re not cooking, where do you dine?

I love Aldea, which is owned by my friend and fellow chef George Mendes; great food. In general, I like Chinese food and recommend Great N.Y. Noodletown in Chinatown. For Japanese, Greenwich Grill in TriBeCa is my go-to spot.

What’s next for you?

Well, it’s been a busy couple of months. My first cookbook, “Neue Cuisine: The Elegant Tastes of Vienna: Recipes from Wallse, BlaueGans and Cafe Sabarsky” came out in October, and I also recently consulted on the opening of The Standard biergarten in LA. I’m also the consultant for the one in New York. Honestly, I’m hoping to spend more time with my kids.

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