Shaking chefs hands
Last night I attended a party at Williams-Sonoma Columbus Circle. Half cookware launch and half benefit party for Bocuse d'Or, an Olympics-style cooking competition held every two years in Lyons, France (and more importantly it seems, never won by an American team). We ate a few small delectable bites, drank a few too many glasses of champagne but the real shining moment was getting to shake hands with both Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud.
So, I'm standing there with a friend and fellow writer and up walks a tall and smiling Thomas Keller. With a twinkle in his eye and an outreach of one large, capable hand, he says, "Thank you so much for coming tonight. What brings you here?" I tell him we're in writing school. "Oh, so you want to write about food?" "Yes, and eat it," I say with a smile. I tell him I was just at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo and we talk of its proposed move and how it might be affected. He asks if I've read the book about the market. Not wanting to admit that I had just picked it up from the library, I say, "Yes." Then I stupidly ask him if he goes direct to his sources, meaning tuna of course, he tells me that he's always gone direct to his sources and continues to say that his version of farm to table has been happening since the very beginning, but no one ever tells that story. He then makes me promise to write the full truth about food. What else can I say but, Yes Chef.
And as if that wasn't enough to go home happy, I met Daniel Boulud. On Hulu I have been catching up on an old show Boulud produced called After Hours. This time I approach him. He's small to Keller's tall but he cuts a lean figure in his white chef's coat. I tell him I am a big fan. "When are you bringing it back?" I ask. He looks touched and smiles and laughs his French laugh and thanks me. I can't remember what we said next but then he is stopped by another fan and I lost him, for just a moment, because then my friend Halle gushes, much like I did, and we end up in a lengthy conversation about Ohio chefs, After Hours, and his restaurants. Always enjoying knowing the mundane details of life, I ask him what time he goes in to work. "Well, let's see, today I got up around 8, 8:30 and then I worked out and then I went in to the restaurant. You know it's all right there for me." His home is just upstairs from his restaurant. I asked what floor his gym was on. "It's in the basement." And with a series of arm movements, a karate chop in each direction he said, "Gym, restaurant, office, home." Each arm slash signifying a different floor of the building. A commute that only involves stairs. Sounds dreamy.
I hope the Americans win the Bocuse d'Or this year and, I hope I get to eat a lot more of their food.