(credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for DCP

By Krista Simmons

In the beginning there was Boulud. And Boulud had a groove. And after spending nearly thirty years manning some of America’s greatest stoves, the chef’s still got it.

Known for dancing on tables ‘til the wee hours of the morning, Lyon-born Daniel Boulud has had one of the most far-reaching influences on American fine dining. It’s only fitting, then, that this culinary master was honored with a formal tribute dinner at the Montage Beverly Hills as part of this weekend’s Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival. And of course, it’s even more a pro pos that the swanky affair was accompanied by Euro-style dance music rather than classical piano.

Menu from the Boulud lunch (credit: Krista Simmons)

Considering Boulud’s international renown, one might not recognize how Angelenos are affected by his career. The chef’s first claim to fame in America was as the executive chef at the New York’s fine dining Mecca, Le Cirque, as well as working with Thomas Keller at the Polo Lounge. His Park Avenue restaurant, Daniel has been awarded three-Michelin stars.

But Boulud’s reach can indeed be seen locally, and the chef elite in attendance at Friday night’s dinner were proof of that. White coats from Bouchon Beverly Hills, Patina and Father’s Office – as well as non-locals Paul Bartolotta and Francois Payard– turned out dishes for the well-heeled crowd, and the likes of Wolfgang Puck and Sherry Yard joined Boulud at his table.

Although the chef doesn’t (yet) own a restaurant here in Los Angeles, what Angelenos know as fine dining would not exist without his far-reaching influence. But that’s not to say it’s a one-sided story; Boulud divulged at the dinner that Sang Yoon, owner of Father’s Office and Lukshon, inspired his casual concept at DBGB.

Yoon prepared a shoulder of jamon iberico de belota course for the dinner, and during his roast of Boulud he divulged that when he visited DBGB, the chef wouldn’t let him try his burgers due to fear of criticism from the man who, according to Esquire magazine, makes the best burger in America.

Boulud surrounded by fellow chefs (credit: Krista Simmons)

But it’s that humble quality that makes Boulud one of the best in the business. It’s also what endears other chefs to him, wether it be his pupil or his peers. Boulud is known for nurturing a new generation of young chefs, both in his own restaurants and as the chairman for the Bocuse d’ Or USA team.

The event showcased not only the evolution of a chef, but also the progression of the culinary scene as we know it. Boulud was one of the pioneers of fine dining in America, but has recently brought his deft touch to his more casual restaurants, Epicerie Boulud and DBGB. That’s not to say that the food is lackadaisical; Boulud and other chefs throughout the country are bringing elevated technique to more approachable, affordable environment.

How will he, and the culinary landscape as a whole continue to grow in the next few years? We can look to Boulud for that answer. Yeah, that’s him over there dancing on the table.