Up Close and Personal with David Bouley

Legendary Chef David Bouley gave foodies a taste of his world in his cooking demo, titled, “The Essence of Japanese Food/Adaptation of Japanese Ingredients into French Dishes.” The cooking demo was held at the International Culinary Center in Soho on January 25, and proved to be a real eye-opener for even the most seasoned of chefs.

At the start of the demo, Bouley announced that his new eatery, Brushstroke, would be replacing his legendary Viennese, Modern-American mixed eatery, Danube (at 30 Hudson Street), in early July. The new resto will feature the naïve cuisine of Kyoto, known as Kaiseki cuisine, with the classic French twist that Bouley brings to all his establishments.

As any true New Yorker would say, Chef Bouley rose to worldwide fame over 25 years ago as a chef at Le Cirque and later owned Bouley in several incarnations, including the original on Duane Street, Bouley Bakery and Bouley Upstairs. In the eyes of foodie everywhere, Bouley can do no wrong.

This is the first time Kaiseki cuisine will be introduced to New York, and the reasoning for this being because so few fresh ingredients were available here until very recently. Bouley explained that this cuisine demands that everything be fresh off the farm or out of the pond.

The very treatment of raised animals in Kyoto is different. Fish and cattle are slaughtered in different ways in Kyoto, for example, fish fins are snapped by fisherman on the boat (though that’s probably a classic case of T.M.I). Fortunately, Cattle are treated much better. Wagyu beef comes from cows that are fed beer and massaged all day like kings. Basically put, they live the life of an Ivy League frat boy with money until their slaughtering day (which for us humans would be the equivalent of “graduation”).

Chef Bouley was not alone, however. He had the help of sous chef Isao Yamada, a chef at Bouley Upstairs and soon-to-be head chef of Brushstroke. He is referred to by the legendary chef as “the machine” for his lightning-fast reflexes and impeccable precision. But this isn’t all bark, as The Rising Star Award given to him serves as well-endowed backup for his bite. To see “the master of mandolin” in action is simply spectacular.

Chef Bouley went on to tell clever tales about his love of the Japanese Mountain yam (which is going to be a staple veggie at Brushstroke), and with Yamada, cooked two styles of Wagyu beef and two styles of scallops. He noted that he could not serve the roasted Wagyu in his new eatery because it tastes best three minutes out of the pan. If Kaiseki cuisine is truly this good, it certainly puts Kyoto at the top of the list of vacation spots.