Haute Ambassador Daniel Boulud On The Art Of Cuisine

Daniel's Main Dining Room-Roses
Daniel’s Main Dining Room-Roses

Photo Credit: Francesco Tonelli

As we gather for another year of the amazing Art Basel festival―an especially exciting time for me to be in Miami―I’m reminded of how my roots and appreciation for art first formed. Artists and chefs have always had a symbiotic relationship. The first one happened for me while working under the talented Roger Vergé in Mougins, France. At the time, I was just a teenager, and he was constantly surrounded by great artists from L’École de Nice, many of whom he was lucky enough to call his friends. While I could not afford their work at the time, I appreciated being exposed to their craft as they often drew inspiration from the culinary world, sharing in that same passion for creation. From there, my love for figurative, contemporary and classic art followed me to Copenhagen, Washington and ultimately, New York City.

When I opened DANIEL 25 years ago in Les Pleiades, the Upper East Side was the mecca for New York City’s art elite―all major galleries were within walking distance. At this point, I began immersing myself in the local art scene. Leo Castelli, a reputable art dealer who was at the forefront of surrealist, abstract and pop art, would come in for lunch every day with a different artist. I remember a party that was held in his honor where the greatest concentration of living contemporary American artists came to celebrate the most renowned gallery owner in the world. The cluster of artists―from Jeff Koons and Willem de Kooning to Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, James Rosenquist and many more―left me with a desire to showcase their craft and collect art.

72nd Ave Subway Original and Mosaic
72nd Ave Subway Original and Mosaic

Photo Credit: Vik Muniz

Most of the featured artwork in my restaurants has been commissioned by artists. Fifteen years ago, my friend Lisa Mamounas introduced me to Brazilian artist and photographer Vik Muniz. I was invited to a party at his home studio in Brooklyn. Vik had a theory that after every great gathering, what remained on the table were wine stains, thereby marking the engaging conversation and enjoyment that was had around the table. Three parties, dozens of people and 85 bottles of the greatest vintages from the greatest winemakers later, the artwork for Bar Boulud came to life. The final result was 25 different stains, with each vintage lending a different shade of red.
For the artwork at DANIEL, I wanted something modern and classic. Inspired by “Las Meninas” from Diego Velázquez, Manolo Valdés studied the dining room and created beautiful collages of his work that have an aesthetic that is both contemporary and timeless.

My appreciation for the arts extends to my children, as well. It began with my eldest daughter on her 16th birthday. I bought her a painting by Aaron Parazette, where he used elongated typography, depth and color to spell out the word “COOL,” an adjective I felt described my daughter perfectly! I plan to do the same for my two younger children so they receive something meaningful and can begin building their own collections. My son Julien is already the proud owner of a turtle by Andy Warhol.
Although I can be artistic in my own way, as chefs what we create on a plate is ephemeral, while an artist’s work is made to sustain time. A few years ago, Vik gave me a truly amazing gift: a mosaic of myself at the 72
nd Street subway station in the Upper East Side. Standing with a shopping bag from the market, this installation will remain a part of the fabric of New York, my adopted home, and that is the power of art for me. 

Vik Muniz and DB_Maritza Caneca
Vik Muniz and Daniel Boulud

Photo Credit: Maritza Caneca