Superstar chef Daniel Boulud did not fare well on his first venture into Canada, but he's ready for a second course.
Mr. Boulud, whose flagship New York restaurant, Daniel, is one of a handful in the city with three Michelin stars, briefly operated two locations in Vancouver only to close them earlier this year. Undaunted, he has un upcoming project at Montreal's Ritz-Carlton hotel and, to be formally announced Thursday, an agreement to open a restaurant and bar in Toronto's new Four Seasons hotel late this summer.
He becomes the third international chef to announce plans to open in Toronto: David Chang, who is behind New York's Momofuku restaurant chain, has announced two new restaurants in Toronto's Shangri-La Hotel when it opens next year. And the city's Thompson Hotel brought in New York celebrity chef Scott Conant last year to run Scarpetta, its marquee Italian restaurant.
Mr. Boulud said his outpost here, to be called Café Boulud, will be modelled after his restaurant of the same name on Manhattan's Upper East Side; the menu will also include dishes from his Mediterranean-focused New York restaurant, called Boulud Sud.
Mr. Boulud's Manhattan-based management company, the Dinex Group, will also run a street-level room that opens onto Bay Street and Yorkville Avenue, to be called d Bar, where the menu will offer charcuterie, cocktails and burgers.
The 56-year-old Mr. Boulud's 15-location empire reaches to Singapore, London, Las Vegas, and Beijing. He said in an interview that he agreed to come to Toronto in part because he wanted to work with Four Seasons and also because Toronto feels familiar.
"What I like is that Toronto is very much like New York: it's mirroring New York in the sense of its culture and its diversity and energy," he said. "I'm excited."
Mr. Boulud, who was raised in Lyon, is perhaps the most famous French chef in North America.
Café Boulud is one of New York's top-rated kitchens, with a carte that's divided into four sections: la tradition for classic French food, la saison for seasonal dishes, le potager, for vegetable-based offerings, and le voyage, for international tastes. The New York Times has consistently awarded it three stars.
Dimitrios Zarikos, Four Seasons' regional vice-president and general manager of the new Yorkville hotel, said his company chose Mr. Boulud in part for his name and reputation, but also because he was willing to tailor his restaurant to the city's tastes.
Mr. Zarikos said the hotel doesn't expect the chef to switch up his formula entirely, but that Mr. Boulud will likely add a few dishes to his existing repertoire, based on local ingredients and ideas.
That will take some work. Though he visits the city every fall to cook for the Grand Cru Culinary Wine Festival, a fundraiser for the Toronto General and Toronto Western hospitals, and said he has enjoyed meals at The Black Hoof and Mark McEwan's One restaurant (in The Hazelton Hotel), the chef couldn't name a local ingredient that had impressed him here.
"I expect to find the same market availability and I'm sure there are lots of farmers who are doing good vegetables," he said.
Mr. Boulud entrusts much of his restaurants' day-to-day operations and oversight to his 21-member management group, as well as to the restaurants' chefs de cuisine – it would be impossible to do otherwise. Mr. Boulud said he's chosen a chef-de-cuisine for his Toronto outpost and will announce his pick in a few months.
As for how much time he'll spend here, Mr. Boulud declined to be specific. "I never sign a contract that obligates me to spend a certain amount of days," he said. "I hope to spend much more time in Toronto, that's for sure."