In the early 1980’s, I used to spend every weekend at the Ram’s Head Inn on Shelter Island. One Friday evening, having arrived after the restaurant’s kitchen had closed, my husband and I ordered the last of the crème brulee left in the pantry. The following evening, the amazing chef, Ray Bradley, came to our table to meet those people who ate 7 crème brulee the previous evening. And Ray began telling us about his dear friend, David Bouley, who was opening a new restaurant in Manhattan, the first to focus on local produce.
The original Bouley was a magical place, which smelled of apples and sugar. The herb infused sauces were sublime and every dish was a perfect balance of flavor and beauty. I love bread and David Bouley bakes the most fabulous bread on this planet, my personal favorite being the olive bread. We ate there often and always when my brother came to visit from California.
Later, this great chef opened Bouley Bakery around the corner and served his masterpieces in a slightly more casual atmosphere. Then came September 11th. I heard that Bouley shut down and the staff alongside David Bouley, were cooking for the volunteers who came from all over the world. I went to help and after burning myself four times in five minutes while trying to cook salmon, the Maitre D’ sent me to serve at Ground Zero.
In your wildest dreams you could not imagine the quality of the food being transported to the “green tarp.” Salmon, chicken, varieties of vegetables, many desserts and of course his signature bread. Word got around pretty quickly that the food being served for free under the green tarp was infinitely superior to the food from the MacDonald’s stand nearby. And the thanks from the volunteers made all of us know how much his food was appreciated.
If I had to pick one favorite restaurant in New York, it is Bouley. Always rated highly in Zagats, David Bouley is a true New York hero and an outstanding chef. And, one of his sous chefs opened the only restaurant in Brooklyn to get 3 Michelin Stars…a testament to his great ability to share his expertise.