Daniel Boulud: The Return of the King

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Daniel Boulud

When Daniel Boulud Brasserie shut its doors on July 4, 2010, Daniel Boulud bid adieu to both his restaurant and the hotel that housed it, the Wynn. But the celebrated French chef always knew he’d return to Las Vegas and now, three years later, has made that dream a reality. The three-starred Michelin chef will open an outpost of his popular New York City eatery, DBGB Kitchen & Bar, at the Venetian come late 2013/early 2014. The 58-year-old sat down with Haute Living to discuss his decision to return to Sin City, his Daniel Hotel dream project and why Thomas Keller might want to watch his back.

What made you decide to return to Vegas at this time?
I always loved Vegas. I was there for five years and when my contract expired, I wanted to create a new restaurant. The economy was being squeezed at the time, so I decided to wait. After partnering with The Venetian in Singapore [db Bistro Moderne at the Marina Bay Sands], it made sense to partner with The Venetian Las Vegas. I like the roster of chefs that is already there: Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse. I’m in good company.

What dishes are you planning on serving at your new location?
Like our New York location, DBGB Kitchen & Bar will be an American tavern meets French brasserie. The ambiance is going to be casual fun, but service-driven. It will be food-driven as well as affordable. We’re going to serve our famous burger and have a menu that goes around the world with sausage; we make all our own charcuterie, sausage, burgers and buns. We’ll also have a wonderful beer program in effect.

How do you think you can improve upon the culinary scene in Sin City?
I want to add to it. I was there improving the culinary scene before, and when I left the culinary scene continued. We didn’t leave because of financial issues. We had a five-year contract, but after five years it was time to move on.

What do you love about Las Vegas?
Las Vegas is a city of a representation for everything you can imagine. It’s a city of imagination. Vegas has accomplished so much in terms of entertainment, in terms of the offering of restaurants, of talent. The pools, the spa, the shows, the restaurants, the hotels — everything is a little bigger and a little better than other places.

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Any plans to return to TV as you did with Top Chef Canada?
I’d love to. I’d love to be a judge. Once I had a show called After Hours With Daniel and I had a blast. I wish I could bring back that show again. I would like to keep the format of that show – me visiting a friends’ kitchen talking about ingredients and cooking. It was very cool.

It’s been reported that you’re about to close on a location at CityCenter in DC. Has that been finalized?
Rumor mill.  They said I was opening. I don’t know. Maybe that will happen in the future, but it isn’t in the cards right now.

When you’re home on a night off, what are you cooking for yourself?
I have my [at press time, fiancée Katherine Gage] make a meal for me! She prepares something lovely. It’s nice to go home and have a moment to myself, as I finish work at 11 P.M.  Katherine was a chef before. She knows how to make a wonderful vegetable dish. I like vegetables, especially at night. I’d prefer having a light dinner when it’s that late.

I love the idea of having my own resort. There’s and there’s a hotel in Paris called Hotel Daniel, and my dream is to find someone to buy it with me and start a Hotel Daniel line. I would translate the luxury touches I give my restaurants into the hotel business.

Certain chefs are expanding with new ventures such as their own hotels and fashion lines. Is there something you’re considering?
I love the idea of having my own resort. There’s and there’s a hotel in Paris called Hotel Daniel, and my dream is to find someone to buy it with me and start a Hotel Daniel line. I would translate the luxury touches I give my restaurants into the hotel business. When I go to a hotel, I’m the most critical person. I look at everything from the comfort of the furniture to how the air conditioning blows to the water pressure in the shower to how perfectly pitch black the room gets, as I need darkness to sleep.  People would feel good in my hotel. I want perfection. Many are good, but not perfect, though I do love the Ritz-Carlton in Montreal; it’s classy and refined but comfortable.
What is one thing the world would be surprised to learn about you? One thing I want the world to know is that I want to go back to golf. I played golf for a short while and then I stopped. I wish to return for one reason, and that is to beat Thomas Keller at his own game because he’s a better golfer than me today. I met him when he wasn’t golfing, and then he suddenly became good – better than me! One thing I want to be able to do is beat Thomas Keller. I need to go back to my game!

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