21 August 2014

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American chefs in London


daniel-boulud-wolfgang-puck.jpgIt’s Thanksgiving today, so to celebrate the season, we spoke to two big-name America-based chefs who have each made a piece of London their home.

Wolfgang Puck was born in Austria, lives in LA, serves American food around the world and has had steak restaurant Cut at 45 Park Lane in Mayfair for over two years. Daniel Boulud grew up in France but now lives in New York and considers himself an American chef. His global list of restaurants includes eponymous Michelin three-star Daniel in New York, and he runs Bar Boulud in Knightsbridge.

When the two chefs were in London recently, we caught up with them to talk about London’s food scene, why it’s among the most exciting in the world, how it compares with America and where they like to eat when they’re in town.

London’s changing

‘Until recently, London’s restaurant scene still felt very French, but the new generation of chefs who have arrived over the past few years feel much more British and have their own identity; there is a lot more influence from Asia, too.’
(Daniel Boulud)

‘London and LA are very similar in terms of restaurants. Years ago all the good ones were French and not run by local people. Today there are a lot of young, local chefs with smaller restaurants doing very exciting things in both cities.’
(Wolfgang Puck)

On top of the world

‘When it comes to food, London is a world capital. There are only three world capitals as I see it: London, New York and Tokyo. London is undoubtedly the capital of Europe when it comes to restaurants; every country and continent is represented here. In Paris, you can’t say that you have the best Indians, the best Japanese, the best Italians, but you can in London. In Paris, all you really have is the best French.’

‘I’m not sure there is any city in the world that is as international as London in terms of restaurants. I think the quality of food is surprisingly high in London right now. In America, people don’t expect that.’

When in London

‘There are a lot of British chefs I admire. London owes a lot to the Roux brothers and Raymond Blanc. They trained a whole generation of chefs, like Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay, who have now trained another generation of young British chefs. I also have a lot of respect for Heston Blumenthal; he is a very clever man.’

‘I went to Restaurant Story recently and I liked it a lot. Tom Sellers is a young man with a dynamic vision. When you get older, you have your mind more set and it’s always the younger people who bring in new stuff. Restaurants like Story make me realise how I need to make sure I keep changing and evolving, otherwise I won’t be here in years to come. I have eaten at Hawksmoor, too, and while I think it is very good, it is not at the same level as we are [at Cut at 45 Park Lane]. It is a different style of restaurant.’

London vs. America

‘There is a lot of American influence in London at the moment. Are there any casual restaurants that don’t serve burgers now? We [at Bar Boulud] were one of the very first of our level to put a burger on the menu and I still think we make the best! It is the same thing that makes London and New York great places to eat: a lot of immigrants.’

‘A really noticeable difference for me is that in LA, you can’t open a restaurant without room to park; per square foot you need to have a certain number of parking spaces or it will not work. You could not imagine that in London.’

Perfect Thanksgiving

‘Every year, I spend Thanksgiving with all my friends, about 30 people. This year we will be going to Per Se restaurant and Thomas Keller [the owner] will be with us. We will have a big breakfast and watch the balloon go by, then have a traditional lunch. We always start with pumpkin soup, and we have some charcuterie, then the turkey. We always finish with a version of pecan pie, but we let the pastry chef at the restaurant get a bit creative with that.’

‘This year for Thanksgiving, will be in Maui, New Zealand; we have a restaurant there. I don’t think I’m going to eat a turkey there because it’s 25ºC degrees, so we might have a whole roasted fish instead. I think Thanksgiving is more about getting together with the family than eating traditional food.’

Also see our selection of American restaurants to celebrate Thanksgiving at this year

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