PW: Why did you choose to base your first cookbook, East of Paris , on dishes from your second restaurant, Danube, rather than on dishes from Bouley, your first restaurant?
David Bouley: I didn't really choose that. It kind of worked out that way. I had a contract with Morrow at Bouley, and then Bouley got a 29 in Zagat and I didn't have time. [Bouley was open in downtown Manhattan from 1987 to 1996, then closed and reopened as Bouley Bakery in 1997. In 2001 it was closed again and reopened as Bouley once more in 2002.]
PW: What has been done to "translate" these recipes from the restaurant to the home kitchen?
DB: I hired my own recipe tester, so we constantly were sensitive to that, but of course I didn't want to go too far from the way we do things.
PW: You wrote the book with Mario Lohninger, Danube's executive chef, and food writer Melissa Clark. What was the division of labor?
DB: In terms of structuring the book, I didn't want to have a chef's book. I wanted to have a book that was going to be used. I like Melissa because she's very connected to the philosophy of the book, the approach to the recipes. I was impressed with the way she articulated things.
PW: How do you and Mario create recipes? Do you start with a traditional Austrian dish and riff off of that? With the ingredients?
DB: We always have to start from the ingredients. It's ludicrous to come up with a list of ingredients and write a recipe and then go shopping. I also did a lot of research in terms of what people were cooking at the wealthy period of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I had to explain to Mario often that people like things in a particular way in America. People don't like rich sauces and don't like to feel like they have to take a nap after a meal. New York is a very active society. People need the energy to go about their lives.
PW: Both your restaurants are in lower Manhattan. How has September 11 affected your business? Are we close to a recovery?
DB: I have no idea. It's not just September 11. It's the economy. I've already seen this three times, though. In the '70s I was running a restaurant in Greenwich, Conn., and I opened the original Bouley four days after Black Monday, when people were jumping out the windows. People still like good food, and they want great service, but today the general mood seems to be a need for relief and fun. We have had to understand how we are interpreted and make adjustments. That's what we'll be doing to Danube in the future: making it lighter, more user-friendly, more accessible, more spontaneous, more of an uncalculated commitment, someplace you could drop into and enjoy fun food that has a high level of energy to it.
PW: You used to have a reputation as a motorcycle-riding "rebel chef." Is that still the case?
DB: I thought the Marlon Brando thing had dissipated. I ride a Harley because I can carry things on it and it's easy to get around downtown and park it. When I opened Montrachet [as executive chef in 1985] we did things that people had to wait for because we were cooking to order. I guess that was a kind of rebellion. Everybody does that now, but before you took a ladle and napped the plate with a sauce. [Pauses] This is a strange interview.
PW: It is?
DB: The book is what it is. It's a bunch of recipes. That's what I'd like to support and get behind. I'm not going to go out and market myself. I don't really understand the synergy between the rebel David Bouley and Rösti Potatoes with Smoked Salmon.