Bryan Miller / February 19th, 2013
Dinner began with a fanciful “peach” of foie gras paired with a sprightly Gewürztraminer and concluded, six courses later, with beignets, boutique chocolates, and a Château de Laubade Armagnac, 1926—the birth year of the honoree, legendary French chef Paul Bocuse. The occasion was the unveiling of a new restaurant bearing his name on the campus of The Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, New York.
The $3 million restaurant, designed by hospitality interior designer Adam Tihany, replaces the 38 year old Escoffier room, formerly the school’s showcase for classic French cuisine. Attendees included 125 food industry executives, media, and a number of prominent chefs whose lives have been influenced directly or otherwise by the towering chef and mentor. Among those, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Michel Richard, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and David Burke.
The look of The Bocuse Restaurant assuredly proclaims that, while classic French cooking has its place, global cuisine is the future. So it is fitting that the new room is dedicated to a chef who launched the less-is-more modernization movement nearly half a century ago at his Michelin three-star restaurant in Collonges-au-Mont-d'Or, in Lyon.
“When we consider Paul’s influence on haute cuisine, it reminds me of something once said by the writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: ‘A definition of perfection is not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.’”
The Modernist dining room is swathed in beige and white, with dark hardwood floors, artsy bentwood armchairs, and, overhead, an array of Buck Rogers–like coiled steel chandeliers. It could easily be in Manhattan’s SoHo or the Flatiron district. The menu will carry “haute brasserie food” with global accents.
“Every single thing you see here is new,” observed Charlie Palmer, a CIA grad, restaurateur, and current chairman of the school’s board of directors. “They did a great job at making a statement about today’s cooking.”
Several dozen CIA students prepared the menu, under the supervision of faculty chefs. As with any Paul Bocuse tribute—and there are many—the cynosure of the feast was Bocuse’s signature black truffle soup with a puff pastry crust (as a party favor, guests took home a heavy ceramic representation of the dish mounted on a thick wood base).
After posing for photos with every student cook, and thanking the school for the tribute, the great man slowly shuffled out of the room, tears glazing his bright and playful eyes.
Watch the CIA’s video, The Bocuse Restaurant: Designed as a Classroom.
Note: The Bocuse Restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday, for lunch and dinner. It will be closed on Sundays, Mondays, and school holidays.