By Sharon Geltner
“Covid has been an emotional ride, but I was lucky. I have family, good friends and my daughter,” Boulud said. “We are going to come back stronger.”
He repeated the phrase, “Come back stronger.”
The lunch and dinner meals at Café Boulud Palm Beach, each with an international sampler menu, benefited World Central Kitchen, a humanitarian organization launched by Chef José Andrés in 2010 that uses the power of food to nourish communities and strengthen economies through times of crisis and beyond.
The meals were billed as celebrations of renewal and genuinely felt like it. For some guests, it was the first time they had dined out since before the Covid-19 lockdown more than one year ago.
Boulud’s timing revealed his thoughts about coming back after Covid. He held this event between Passover and Easter, which traditionally marks the end of the social season in Palm Beach.
Not this time, said Boulud.
“We are not ending, the Season will carry on,” he said. “Instead of fading off after Easter, this year we will continue our special events, including Wednesdays.”
Boulud’s Springtime theme fit not only the menus, but his hopes for his global business empire.
For example, he will open La Pavillon at a new office tower across from Grand Central Station – One Vanderbilt in Midtown Manhattan.
“I’m very hopeful to be at full employment,” Boulud said. “Out of 820 employees (at his U.S. restaurants), I furloughed 800. I want them brought back as fast as I can.”
He said he has rehired 33 percent of his staff and will emphasize sidewalk cafes and takeout.
“We have work to do.”
Boulud continued opening restaurants during the pandemic, such as Café Boulud Bahamas at Rosewood Baha Mar in Nassau earlier this year. This past October, he opened Brasserie Boulud in the Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk, his first venture in the Mideast.
This fall, Boulud will reopen Café Boulud in Toronto, Maison Booulud in Montreal and DBGB in Washington, D. C.
He believes the pandemic pattern of New York chefs opening new restaurants in south Florida will continue.
“Even before Sant Ambroeus, New York chefs came to Florida, little by little. Then we’d all go to Cucina (in Palm Beach), where all the restaurant trade goes after work. In New York, we are trying to function at lower capacity, keeping people outside. Not all restaurants are open yet. But here in Palm Beach, we never stop.”
Several times during the luncheon, to laughter and applause, Boulud encouraged Samuelsson to open in Palm Beach.
Samuelsson smiled and said, “Daniel is my mentor. I follow him everywhere.”
Boulud noted, “I did not come to Palm Beach because I smelled the cash. I had lots of customers who were spending time here and I fell in love with the Brazilian Court and the area.”
He first considered opening a restaurant in Palm Beach when he toured the area in the mid-eighties.
“I was impressed and I have always loved the area.”
Boulud opened Café Boulud Palm Beach in July 2003.
“As for New York, I’m very optimistic. Some say it has gotten weaker, but I say, the city will come back. It will get stronger.’’
“We will work harder to come out from under Covid. We will come back stronger.’’
Feature Photo: Chef Daniel Boulud (Sharon Geltner)
Sharon Geltner is the author of the Palm Beach novel, “Charity Bashed,’’ and a highly-respected South Florida-based travel and culinary author.