The Fourth Star: Dispatches from Inside Daniel Boulud’s Celebrated New York Restaurant

This look inside a well-known restaurant is a fun read, albeit repetitive, as writer Leslie Brenner observes, no holds barred, what goes on at Daniel, Daniel Boulud’s well-known French restaurant in New York City. Front of the house, back of the house, managers meetings, lunch service, dinner service, banquet service (with then-President Clinton, to boot).

“The seviche tonight involves sea scallops, oysters, and sea urchins, with osetra caviar, pink raddish, and celery leaves in a horseradish-lime oyster water. It’s Daniel all over: clear, pure flavours that sound as though they’ll make sense, though they’re  unusual in combination. Synergistic, the flavours vibrate  together, creating a dish in which the whole is a thousand times greater than the sum of its parts.”

I read this on the iPhone while walking wee reader in the mornings after breakfast and I read this before bedtime, that is, after dinner. Because this book should only be read on a full stomach, although the food it describes is not food that you can stomach every day. Visions of food – the fancy type, with truffles and foie gras – dance before your eyes in every chapter. There’s also the less fancy ‘family dinner’ or what the staff themselves eat, simpler fare like tacos carnitas or pasta and salad. While the front of house strives to create a serene and a pleasant environment for the diner (really, for the super rich or famous diner, since a meal for two runs in the hundreds), it is a tense, stressful environment in the kitchen. And how can it not be, with several hundred covers at dinners,  special requests, tastings, daily specials, a la carte orders, demanding VIPs (celebrities, press – even a regular who disdains all of the amazing desserts and gets a special off-menu order of tarte tatin everytime) who get all sorts of complimentary things, everyday. And that elusive ‘fourth star’, that is, the New York Times food critic’s rating of the restaurant (not long after Daniel first opened in January 1999, the New York Times gave it 3 stars. Daniel gets its four-star rating in 2001).

The Fourth Star is an entertaining read. Especially for anyone who’s interested in  what goes on behind the scenes of a restaurant.

This is my fifth read for the Foodies challenge

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4 thoughts on “The Fourth Star: Dispatches from Inside Daniel Boulud’s Celebrated New York Restaurant

  1. I ate at one of Boulud’s restaurants in Las Vegas (it looks like it is closed now) a few years ago. It was delicious and I remember the service to be excellent. Interesting book. I’ll keep it in mind. Good review.

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