In a culinary landscape saturated with TV superchefs and sprinkled with bloggers, few names still cause tastebuds to tingle and mouths to water like Daniel Boulud. With accolades piled higher than his mise-en-place — not to mention all those Michelin stars — the Lyon-born chef’s gourmet empire includes seven restaurants in New York City and two in Florida, plus outposts in Beijing, Singapore, London and Montreal. Now, with the opening of Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, Boulud brings his signature “Four Muses” concept north, to the city’s thriving food scene. On the eve of the opening, we chatted with Boulud and Chef de Cuisine, Tyler Shedden, a British Columbia native, about menus and memories.
Daniel, why Toronto — and why now?
Daniel Boulud: Toronto, for me, has the sophistication and cosmopolitan aspect for the Café Boulud concept to work. I was also excited because Four Seasons is based in here and has such an amazing global reputation for hospitality. So, to be involved with this new flagship hotel was very exciting. And you see, it’s not like I’m in a city where I don’t know anyone. I’ve been coming to Toronto for the last decade and I have lots of Toronto customers who come to New York.
How did you adapt your Four Muses concept to the creation of this new menu?
Tyler Shedden: We started back in January and looked at what we were doing at Daniel, in New York City, but I also knew it was a chance to try some things we hadn’t done before. Then, Daniel basically just said, “Cook me some stuff.” And I did, from fish and meat to salads and pasta.
DB: We know the Four Muses can adapt because seasonality is so important. So what may have started as an inspiration for corn risotto in summer can become squash for the fall. The menu for the opening, will it remain forever? No. It’s an ever-changing canvas.
What kind of a role did local ingredients play in the development of the new dishes?
DB: It’s very important. For example, there’s a trout farmer Tyler found north of Toronto who’s raising some beautiful fish. Because of this farmer, we will always have a wonderful trout dish on the menu; I think the Speckled Trout will become a classic.
TS: With the dbar menu, we also wanted to include a couple of fun references to Toronto. We came up with the “Firehouse 312 Burger,” in honour of the working firehouse next door. It’s a burger topped with BBQ pulled pork and jalapeño mayo.
Sounds delicious! So let me ask you this: If you could eat only one dish from this menu for the rest of your life, what would it be?
TS: The Marinated Squid salad is my favourite thing. It’s nice and light and has a lot of depth coming from the pickled chilis, jalapeño and lime gremolata.
DB: Definitely Poulet au Vinaigre because it brings me so many memories: it’s a classic dish from Lyon that I learned to make at 14 years old. Our twist here is we made it with fennel-tarragon jus and I like it very, very much.
What will set Café Boulud apart from any other restaurant in Toronto — or even Canada?
TS: Well, we’re not here trying to show anybody how to cook. Toronto has really great chefs and restaurants already — we just want to add to what’s there.
DB: Personally, I feel so welcome here. There’s a talented community of chefs dedicated to making this city the best in the world. I’m proud to be part of it. But a little competition is healthy, no? – Beth Hitchcock
We’re sure you don’t need another reason to visit, but epicurious.com just named Toronto its Top Food City for 2013 (with a mention of Café Boulud, of course). So book your trip — and your reservation at Café Boulud or dbar — today!