Chef Daniel Boulud may have been born in France, but he has long been a New Yorker, opening his two Michelin-star Restaurant Daniel there in 1993. “I’ve lived longer in New York City than I lived in France, for sure,” says the celebrity chef, whose culinary empire now includes restaurants in Toronto, Dubai, Washington, D.C., Singapore, the Bahamas, Palm Beach, Miami, Massachusetts and Montreal.
But Boulud has never before opened a restaurant on the West Coast. That will change next year when he debuts a spot in Southern California at the Mandarin Oriental Residences, currently under construction and due to open in late 2022. Located at 9200 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, the 323,000-square-foot luxury condominium project from real estate developer SHVO will include a library, a lounge, a meeting space, rooftop pool, fitness and wellness center and indoor-outdoor areas for yoga and meditation. The property will have 54 residences, some of which will feature interior bonsai gardens.
All of those amenities will be reserved for condo owners, who will also have access to Boulud’s in-residence food offerings available poolside or delivered in-home.
The chef though will also create a yet-to-be-named restaurant on the ground floor of the Mandarin Oriental project that will be open to the public.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Boulud describes the look and feel of his in-the-works restaurant: “There will be a beautiful garden with two areas in the front entrance, sort of a hidden garden. I think the restaurant will be intimate. It [won’t] look either feminine or masculine but it has a real sort of soft-touch to design. It won’t feel clubbish,” he says.
The vibe, he adds, will be “casual chic. It’s going to be I think a wonderful, fresh place — relaxed and sophisticated at the same time.” The restaurant will be designed by L.A.-based artist and designer Marc Ange of Studio Ange, who has created everything from train-car interiors for Orient Express to perfume bottles for Christian Louboutin and Jean Paul Gaultier.
The restaurant’s cuisine, says Boulud, will “bring a touch of French New York to L.A. I’m not going to do a bowl of tripe with a blood sausage inside but I will do it maybe for my friends who are foodies, that really like old French classics. But not, I want to make sure that the DNA of my cuisine is French but also with a lot of inspiration that grew out of my experience here in America.” On top of that, Boulud wants to strike a balance with “the L.A. way of life — you know people like to eat very good food but they also like that to fit a little bit their lifestyle as well.” And he’s excited to be launching a restaurant in a city known for its fresh produce as well. “In L.A., ingredients are exquisite. It’s vegetable paradise,” he says. The wine program will feature both French and California vintages.
Boulud recalls that he first visited Los Angeles in 1981, the same year that Wolfgang Puck, who would later become a close friend, published his first cookbook, Modern French Cooking for the American Kitchen. “I was touring California and I just arrived in America and I visited San Francisco and L.A. and of course Disneyland,” says Boulud.
“Of course, over the years I’ve been back to L.A. so many times for charity events but also to see friends and spend time in different parts of L.A. I have a lot of friends there. I have family that lives there. About a dozen years ago, I did a show called After Hours with Daniel Boulud and I spent two weeks in L.A. cooking at many of my friends’ restaurants like Father’s Office or with of course [Mozza’s] Nancy Silverton and I had a lot of fun. I felt like if I had never moved to New York I would have moved to L.A. for sure.”
Boulud had previously entertained the idea of opening a restaurant in L.A. years back at the Sunset Tower on the Sunset Strip. “[Hotelier] Jeff Klein was a partner at the City Club Hotel in New York,” says Boulud, “and when he took over the Sunset Tower, we talked about, ‘Oh that would be a great idea if you opened there.’ But I wasn’t ready.”
He had also long told his friend Puck that “if you ever come to New York, I’ll come to L.A. one day. So I’m a little bit behind because he opened about four or five years ago the Four Seasons in New York,” he says.
When this reporter notes to the chef that no L.A. restaurant has yet scored three Michelin stars — whereas San Francisco has three establishments that have won that accolade — Boulud demurs: “I want to make a wonderful restaurant for L.A. but don’t count me to bring the three stars. I leave it to some very good young and talented chefs there that deserve it for what they do. I think L.A. definitely deserves better recognition of their star chefs because there’s a lot of good talent in L.A. and amazing trends and movements in the culinary world started in L.A.”
And where does Boulud like to go to eat when he’s in L.A.? Spago tops the list. “Of course, Wolfgang is my first stop always. Because every time Wolfgang is in New York — and before he opened his restaurant downtown — he would always come to see me for dinner or sit at the bar at Daniel and have a bite with me.”
Chef Boulud also recently opened a new restaurant in New York, Le Pavillon. “It’s at the new skyscraper One Vanderbilt and there are already dishes that have become classic there, like the oysters Vanderbilt that we do, which is an oyster in the shell, poached, with a crust of herb and seaweed.”
Meanwhile at Restaurant Daniel, which is 28 years old this year and recently reopened with a refreshed design, “the menu is always seasonal and in rotation. We have right now California abalone,” he says, noting “there’s always a product of California on the menu, either spot prawns from Santa Barbara or artichokes from California. I’m looking forward to doing a little homage to Castroville in L.A. and having a dish with artichokes.”