After working at various five-star restaurants in Europe throughout the 1970s (and for two years, as a private chef in Washington, D.C.), French chef Daniel Boulud at long last moved to New York City in 1982. About a decade later, in May 1993, he went on to establish his eponymous Michelin-starred restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Since then, his seasonal dishes, which are rooted in traditions from his native Lyon, have earned him global culinary renown and inspired more than a dozen restaurants around the world—including nine in New York.
Boulud’s belief in food as a means for comfort extends far beyond his customers. Upon seeing the events unfold on September 11, 2001, he mobilized his staff to deliver food to frontline workers that very day. Soon, he was working alongside others from the restaurant community to make hot meals for people at ground zero 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for nearly a month after the attacks. Here, Boulud recalls the humbling experience of doing so, and how the pandemic has offered a strikingly similar opportunity to serve those in need.
“Since I first came to this city, I’ve always tried to be a good New Yorker. On the morning of September 11, I was getting ready for work. We lived above Daniel, on 65th Street. Suddenly I could hear the sirens of fire trucks and police along Park Avenue, and saw what was happening on television. Immediately, I started to call everyone on our team to make sure they were safe.
I don’t know how, but Tim Zagat [co-founder of the Zagat restaurant guides] managed to convene a meeting that afternoon, with all of us chefs around a conference table in Midtown. Danny Meyer was there, as was Drew Nieporent, Charlie Palmer, Gray Kunz, and many, many others. At that time, only Tim and [his wife,] Nina, had those connections, long before we thought in terms of social networks. ‘Firemen and police need food,’ Tim said. So we started to make sandwiches with the leftover food we suddenly had in our kitchens, because our restaurants had to shut down. The police gave us the okay to pass through the blockade around the United Nations building, and head for lower Manhattan.
I went to a police precinct and a fire station on the east side of Wall Street, near Chinatown, with my boxes of sandwiches. I offered them to firefighters, police officers, and others who came in and out from the World Trade Center to those stations, looking for a clean place [to rest]. We fed them, starting with those sandwiches, filled with chicken, smoked salmon, ham, or vegetables. I have bakers, and I had charcutiers at the time, and we improvised. The next day, we made more sandwiches. Then we had a meeting to figure out how we could make hot food for these thousands of rescue workers and others who were downtown by chance that morning, and stayed to help.
Don Pintabona [then the chef at Tribeca Grill] called a ship captain he knew, and we were soon given use of two Spirit Cruises boats, the kind that normally take sightseers around Manhattan. We got the biggest one they had—a triple-decker—and turned it into a floating kitchen that went back and forth from the Chelsea Piers to the World Financial Center marina at ground zero. We started cooking hot food on a twenty-four-hour, nonstop basis, and did so for nearly a month. Suppliers brought us vegetables and meats that we could cook, grill, and roast.
Within a day, we’d set up a buffet line over two decks of the boats. People could come aboard by tender to get a nourishing hot meal, then go back out into the wreckage again. We served every kind of cuisine you can imagine, because so many communities wanted to help. Chinese chefs cycled over balancing bags upon bags of dim sum. I remember Jean-Georges [Vongerichten] delivered a massive cooler of chili con carne that we heated up and passed around. I still meet firefighters who remember how we fed them.
One day I’ll never forget is when a van just showed up. Someone popped the back doors open, and it was stacked to the top with pizzas! They were from the owner of a pizzeria in one of the neighborhoods where many of the firefighters lived—he had all the connections to bypass the blockades everywhere around ground zero. This kind of community service was New York City at its finest.
Food really kept people together down there, and we cooked it with a sense of nurturing, with great care, and with immense admiration. We could see the transformation in those who came aboard. What we fed them gave them a lot of strength to go back out, and to do more. They were just working beyond belief.
I was so disturbed by the magnitude of the attacks. I would walk home to the Upper East Side at 3 a.m., and it felt like returning from hell to civilization. At first, everything felt surreal and scary. But within a week, we reopened Daniel. The mood, of course, was somber, but it felt good for people to gather.
When the pandemic hit, in March 2020, I again wanted to help first responders—but before that, we had to furlough more than seven hundred and fifty people, and I worried about them. By April, Mark Holliday, my business partner [in the recently opened seafood restaurant Le Pavillon], had put one million dollars toward making and delivering meals, and his team took care of the logistics of doing so. The result is our Food1st Foundation, which has helped feed emergency workers and other people with limited access to food by partnering with around thirty restaurants throughout New York City, and delivering meals to more than one hundred locations around the five boroughs. We always serve a good, healthy protein with a freshly made sauce. It’s no different from how I feed my restaurant customers: We’re delivering comfort, by cooking food with soul and substance.”
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Lexie Smith is an artist and baker, though it’s only relatively recently, after years of working in restaurant kitchens and balanciBread on Earth. Her work often takes on various forms, from performance and installation to photography, writing, and publishing, all
After years in various kitchens, working his way up from dishwasher to cook, and ultimately chef de partie at Eleven Madison Park, Matt Jozwiak left the fine-dining world behind in 2017 to start Rethink Food NYC, a nonprofit organization that partners with restaurants and grocery stores to reduce excess food and make nutritious, Ghetto Gastro and Jozwiak’s former boss, chef Daniel Humm—as collaborators in its mission to fight food insecurity and foster a more
Extolled by New York City’s finest restaurants, from Daniel to Eleven Madison Park and abcV, as well as a growing coteriDavocadoguy, is seemingly everyone’s go-to guy for the best avocados. He keeps his supply consistently stocked and perfectly ripene
Supermarkets put billions of pounds of perfectly fine, edible food to waste each year for the very silly, Goldilocks reanearly half of all harvested produce is never eaten. The home-delivery start-up Misfits Market aims to right the wrong of this senseless global food crisis, selling only produce that is certified organic, non-GMO,
Marfa may be known as a site of pilgrimage for lovers of minimalist art—its expansive desert sky, open landscape, and ofCooking in Marfa: Welcome, We’ve Been Expecting You (Phaidon). The collection of essays and recipes, featuring local ingredients and dishes, from prickly pear to chicharrón
The idea of “pantry cooking” connotes a sense of resourcefulness—the humble term focused on the shelf lives of whatever Esquire food and drinks editor Jeff Gordinier told us on Ep. 10 of At a Distance, canned food can be every bit as delicious as the fresh stuff, if not exceedingly so. Conservas, tinned seafood products from Spain and Portugal, can last for months, if not years, in the cupboard, but that seems topiquillo peppers stuffed with bonito tuna. Chicken of the Sea, these are not. Fortunately, you can browse and find all sorts of conservas online from grocers such as La Tienda and Chicago’s Wixter Market, and fuel those wanderlust dreams of a trip to the Iberian coast. “The other day I tried zamburiñas,” Gordinier told us on the podcast, with excitement. “Have you heard of that? See, this is interesting. I'm still seeki
First came the sourdough craze; next, homemade cheese. Ricotta, to be specific. Since pandemic times, home cooking has ta recent episode of At a Distance. “For me, it was so wild how far away we had come from that, as a species—the fact that most people don’t know how to htry this recipe), requiring only two ingredients: milk and lemon. Add a bit of patience, which is something we could all stand to pract
Dr. Brian Fisher, an entomologist and curator at the California Academy of Sciences, has studied and identified countless species of antadvocating for an insect-focused approach to nutrition and natural conservation. Here, Fisher tells us why eating insects is a healthy practice for both our bodies and the planet.
Whetstone Magazine Co-Founder and “Origin Forager” Stephen Satterfield on Food, Culture, and Identity
The co-founder of Whetstone magazine and host of the food anthropology podcast Point of Origin, food writer Stephen Satterfield spent more than a decade working as a sommelier before venturing into the world of medEsquire, Food & Wine, New York magazine, and other publications, Satterfield tells us about his role as a self-described “origin forager,” and why the
With Memorial Day weekend behind us, summer has officially begun, and for many home-growers, this signifies the busiest Kitazawa Seed Company, founded in 1917 by a Japanese American family, sells some of the best, and offers more than 500 seed varieties of dento yasai, traditional heirloom varieties of a diverse array of Asian vegetables used in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cuisines, Browse the extensive catalog to learn about all the delicious varieties, and pick up some recipes for dishes such as sunomono, a simple and refreshing cucumber salad, and kinpira gobo, a savory side of burdock root sautéed in sweet soy sauce.