Michelin-Starred Chef Daniel Boulud Expands His Culinary Legacy

Michelin-starred Chef Daniel Boulud is one of America’s leading culinary authorities, continually evolving his cuisine and expanding his reach globally. Chef Boulud has created The Dinex Group, LLC in 1993 to manage his collection of internationally renowned and acclaimed restaurants. Its emphasis on hospitality, from fine dining to casual cuisine, is served at the highest level. The Dinex Group began with its restaurant, DANIEL, growing today to 19 venues worldwide, as well as its catering company, Feast & Fêtes. 


Food and Beverage Magazine caught up with Chef Boulud and Sebastien Silvestri, CEO of The Dinex Group. Together, they share about the openings of Le Pavillon, Le Gratin, and Joji, the longevity of DANIEL, and future projects.


How would you explain the chef’s background and career?

Sebastien Silvestri: He will never say it himself, but Chef Daniel is, obviously, a bit of a New York icon and institution. He started his first restaurant, DANIEL, in the city as a young chef, having already succeeded as the Executive Chef at Le Cirque. DANIEL instantly became known as one of the best restaurants in New York City and has stayed that way for 30 years. Meanwhile, he’s opened multiple other restaurants in the city and around the world. Today, we have a fantastic portfolio of longstanding and new locations, from Café Boulud in Palm Beach for 20 years to the Michelin-starred Le Pavillon at One Vanderbilt in the heart of midtown NYC to our new bouchon Lyonnais Le Gratin in downtown New York. He’s not slowing down at all! You don’t get to this level without very deep culinary roots, which Daniel has since he started working in restaurants in his hometown of Lyon, France, when he was 15 and has been doing it ever since. But he also has the genuine passion to stay creative and keep growing, learning, and innovating. For me, as CEO of his company, this is an incredible asset, and we’re using that passion to keep growing and building our business every day.  


Le Pavillon: what inspired this restaurant?

Chef Daniel Boulud: There was a previous incarnation of Le Pavillon starting in the 1940s, one of the first wave of French restaurants in New York City. This restaurant, and others like La Cote Basque and La Caravelle, introduced a new level of French cuisine to America and were part of such a great era of fine dining in New York City. So my version of Le Pavillon is an homage, taking inspiration from this idea of again introducing something new to the now very sophisticated, global customer base that dines in NYC. We have a spectacular location in a brand-new skyscraper next to Grand Central, with glorious views of the Chrysler Building. We built and opened this restaurant during the pandemic, so I feel it is part of the renaissance of the city and, once again, the start of an exciting new era. 


Le Pavillon: Let’s talk about the menu.

Chef Daniel Boulud: While we are inspired by the great French restaurants of the past, our cuisine today is very different, much lighter, with a seafood and vegetable-forward menu. Today we are able to source the finest ingredients both locally and from around the world, and as a chef, I find incredible inspiration in being able to work with these ingredients. Le Pavillon takes advantage of that freshness and seasonality. We serve an incredible, very simple, grilled avocado and also a perfectly delicate wood-fired octopus dish. These are some of our guest favorites, time after time. It is a lighter way of eating that appeals to our guests today. It’s reflective of the way I eat these days too! We are all looking for maximum flavor but very fresh and healthy. 


Le Pavillon: It earned its first Michelin star. How did you feel when that happened?

Chef Daniel Boulud: Earning a Michelin star is always an incredible feeling. It is such an achievement; we greatly respect Michelin, and their recognition means so much. At Le Pavillon, I am really thrilled for my team, including Chefs Michael Balboni and Will Nacev, who opened the restaurant with me. So many team members have been with us since opening day, and this was not an easy restaurant to open! We always aspired to have an exceptional restaurant, but launching this kind of project during the Covid period was a huge risk. The fact that we have received such a positive, glowing reception not just from Michelin but by our guests and the city itself is one of the highlights of my career.


Le Gratin: what inspired this new Bouchon Lyonnais at the Beekman and its menu?

Chef Daniel Boulud: Of course, Le Gratin is inspired by my hometown and the wonderful cuisine there. It began long before I even worked in restaurants. It starts at my mother’s dinner table, where she served her famous “Gratin Dauphinois.” These are real comfort foods, and this idea of French comfort foods very simply inspires the menu at Le Gratin. In a warm and welcoming atmosphere, you can come and enjoy a great Steak Frites or a great Salade Lyonnaise with a fantastic glass of wine. There is a lot of pleasure in this way of eating, and I love bringing my version of Lyon to New York! 


Joji bears no name, no door, and no sign. How did you connect with sushi master George Ruan, formerly of Masa, and developer SL Green, developer of One Vanderbilt?

Sebastien Silvestri: Joji is like a meeting of great minds and culinary masters. Daniel is a long-time fan of the hidden sushi restaurants in Japan and is always seeking out something undiscovered when he visits there. With SL Green, our partners in Le Pavillon at One Vanderbilt, we wanted to do something to complete the restaurant experience in this exceptional location. The idea is to offer the best of the best, all in this magnificent skyscraper. But with Joji, we are doing something very different from Le Pavillon – it is like a hidden jewel, a very intimate and personal environment. We envisioned this project together with the talented Chef George Ruan, with whom we share the vision of bringing this kind of unique, undiscovered experience to New Yorkers. No need to visit Tokyo!  


Restaurant Daniel: what is the secret for its longevity? 

Sebastien Silvestri: In my opinion, the true reason for the longevity of DANIEL is Daniel Boulud himself!


Chef Daniel Boulud: Actually, there is something to be said for consistency, but consistency is mixed with innovation. It is very difficult to stay at the top for 30 years, especially in a city like New York. Our guests expect the best, so they keep us on our toes! We have very high standards, and we manage to keep them high by investing in our team, our ingredients, and our space. We work with the best suppliers from around the world. We just completed a renovation last year; for example, we now have museum-quality art in the restaurant from Alex Katz. The process of recruiting, training, improving, and elevating never ends. We are working on it all every single day. And thankfully, I have members of my team who have been with me for a decade or more, such as Executive Chef Eddy Leroux. He grew up with me! The team at DANIEL is honestly like a family to me, and it is only by working so closely together that we are able to pull it off every night. 


What future projects can you share with the readers?

Sebastien Silvestri: Next year, we are going to be opening our first restaurant in California, a very exciting new Café Boulud location in Beverly Hills. We also have a new concept, Boulud Privé, an exclusive amenity for residents at the 685 5th Ave. building in New York. There are a few other new projects, of which I can’t share details yet, but we are excited about announcing them over the next several months. We will be very busy, so stay tuned! 


What trends do you see in the restaurant industry?

Chef Daniel Boulud: I have never been one to follow trends or even to watch trends. I have so many friends in this industry, great chefs and restaurateurs worldwide, and I love to see what they are doing and dine in their restaurants because they are all so different. Everyone is doing their own thing, and I think what makes them great is following their own vision. For myself and our guests, I think what has become more important than ever is to create peak, immersive experiences. When you come to one of our restaurants for one night, you can be transported, whether it is to a great French bistro, or a hidden sushi gem, or a fine dining palace. Guests are very knowledgeable now, and the expectations involve much more than great cuisine. This includes our thoughtful and gracious service, an elevated atmosphere, precious ingredients, unique preparations, and much more. My vision is to try to always exceed their expectations with a unique experience in each of my restaurants every night. 

Read Also: Comeback of the pickle feast, as featured in F & B Magazine.

What future do you envision for The Dinex Group?

Sebastien Silvestri: We are hiring! As always, we are looking for talented people who are interested in growing with us. As Daniel said, we really are like a family, and our people are our foundation. We continue to build our restaurants and our team in many ways, working closely with our partners, our suppliers, and all the young chefs and trainees we mentor in our restaurants. We have a network of current and former employees that reaches worldwide, and we are proud to play a part in so many fulfilling careers. The restaurant industry is more challenging than ever in many ways, but we are excited to continue to evolve and meet the challenges to come! 


For more info, visit danielboulud.com, and follow on Facebook @ ChefDanielBoulud, Instagram @ danielboulud, and Twitter @ danielboulud.