You're going to open in Montreal? Why Montreal? It's a historical hotel, the Ritz-Carlton. They've gutted the place in the last four years, and they have 130 rooms, so it's a small hotel. The restaurant used to be called Café de Paris—it was famous for being famous but not so famous for the food. That's where Maison Boulud is going to go. What's the concept? I feel I can take dishes and things from Daniel, but mostly Cafe Boulud, DB, and Bar Boulud and take aspects of each one. Upscale casual, but a little more casual than Cafe Bolud.
You recently decided to close in Vancouver. When do you know it's time to close a restaurant? In New York, it's my own investment. We build our restaurant based on own earnings and savings. The best partnership is also with hotels, with a management group where there's already a synergy. There, I wanted to make a friend happy and maybe I said yes when maybe I should have said no. Vancouver was very nice but I don't think it was for me. I felt that if the restaurant wasn't profitable, why bother?
Boulud Sud just opened. Will there be more Upper West Side projects to come? Non. Three is enough. How about more expansions outside the NYC area? Yes, but not too many. If it's one restaurant every year—I have the staff, support and structure to do that. I just want to make sure I will have a life too. [laughs]
We're asking everyone we interview today to pose a question to the next person being interviewed. Danny Meyer had a question for you: Would you ever team up with him and open Danny & Daniel? [laughs] I think so! I have this idea of doing a diner and calling it Paris, Texas. If Danny wants to be my partner, I think we'd do very well. I always felt, in France, we don't have diners, but we do have bouchon, or bistro — depends on the region, but generally, you can hang out all day, and it's for all generations.
What would be on this menu, if you did do Paris, Texas? The menu would have two sides. Soup a l'onion on one side, clam chowder on the other. Steak frites on one side, barbecue on the other. In other words, one side is old classic French basics, and the other side is the Americana. [pauses] Maybe that would be good for Queens. [laughter] You want a place where everyone can afford it all day.
Also, I want to make sure if we do it with Danny, we open them at same rate as the Shake Shack. [laughter] The magic of a successful expansion — it's the simplicity of its formulas and consistency of its supply. And the control of the quality and all that. He's got it right with Shake Shack.
Do you have a question for our next interviewee, José Andrés?
My question to José is: What do you wish for Spanish cuisine to become 20 years from now, and what are you going to do with yourself in America to make that happen?
Spanish cuisine has been on a rise, and I think it's not over yet. Like all substantial cuisines, French cuisine — maybe we hit a plateau, but then we find a way up again. I'd like to know about his futuristic vision. It's not so much his expansion plans as vision.
Ben Leventhal, from a nearby table: So, chef, what do you wish for French cuisine? To keep communicating and producing inspiration and motivation to young chefs. I think we have the package, the history — you look at the last 300 years, there's a lot to be inspired from. It has to be organized a little bit. Look at Grant [Achatz] in Chicago opening his restaurant Next. It's Escoffier all over again. You know what I mean? Yet he had to recompose it himself.
Technique is there, but technique comes from all over the world today. Look at Nathan Myhrvold. The French wish they had a Nathan, somehow, somewhere. But who has the resources? They are getting organized a little more to translate everything that's been done or recorded. I think it's interesting, Nathan's book [Modernist Cuisine], even an inspiration. Although I don't think anyone can cook out of it. [laughter] But still, I am getting a copy for all my chefs.