It’s noon on a Tuesday, just two days after the final meal was served at the Four Seasons Toronto’s Café Boulud. As I sit in dBar waiting to meet the new Chef de Cuisine of Café Boulud 2.0, I can hear demolition from above, and I feel a twinge of sadness. I was one of the people who absolutely loved Café Boulud just as it was. But alas, after opening three years ago with a bang, Daniel Boulud’s restaurant failed to impress many of the Toronto food critics, and it may have been a little too fancy for anything besides special occasions. But as they say, out with the old and in with the new, and Café Boulud 2.0 plans to bring a little piece of France to our city.
Chef Sylvain Assié is the man behind the revamped Boulud, scheduled to open in early September 2015. He is truly French, which leads us to an entire interview in our mother tongue.
Having been with the Four Seasons for a decade, working in kitchens from Bora Bora and Terre-Blanche in Provence, it feels like this well-deserved promotion to Chef de Cuisine of Café Boulud 2.0 was well worth it. Working under Chef Daniel Boulud is a dream, though he’s not the first Michelin star chef Assié has worked with.
“Before the Four Seasons I interned in the Cote d’Azur, so I had the opportunity to work in some great hotels; Le Martinez, Ritz-Carlton and Le Byblos. After that I worked at the Michelin star restaurant Le Mas Candille in Mougins, as well as with Chef Didier Anies at La Coupole in Monaco. I was very lucky to learn with the greats who taught me the base of French cuisine.”
Twenty years later, Assié is no stranger to fine dining. But Café Boulud 2.0 plans to stray from fanciness to become more approachable so guests can dine there three to four times a week.
“The menu will be family style, going back to true French cuisine, so people can enjoy the family dinners like we used to enjoy in France on Sundays,” he says. “We want to bring more extensive charcuterie to the new menu because we’ve had the chance to work with the great charcutier Chef Gilles Verot. The new menu will feature elevated traditional charcuterie like cured meat torts and quesnelles.” I think back to when I was growing up in France and remember my father’s passion for quesnelles. Toronto is in for a treat.
“Our new rotisserie machine allows us to serve whole chicken, roasted leg of lamb and more family dinner items that we used to eat as kids growing up in France. This menu brings back memories of Sunday dinners when my mom always made leg of lamb for the family.”
Lunch will also be traditional French cuisine, and while larger mains will be available, the menu is tailored to accommodate in-and-out guests who lean towards lighter fare. A server brings over a Nicoise salad, which will be on the menu, and I notice that it’s the perfect size for lunch. It’s also delicious.
As he speaks about food, the menu, and his family memories, it’s endearing to watch his excitement for the new Café Boulud. “It’s amazing to be a part of this re-birth and to work so closely with Daniel. In two days he’s changed the menu three times because we are trying and testing everyday. I love it.”
I’m curious to know more about him. I discover that his wife also works at the Four Seasons and they have a little girl that was born in magical Bora Bora, when they were living there. They’ve been in Canada for five years and he was a part of the kitchen team at the previous Four Seasons. He has witnessed the evolution of the hotel and now he’s an integral part of the evolution of Café Boulud.
Chef Assié’s integrity is flawless. He’s learned from the best and has an immaculate work ethic. While he notes some of the new generation chefs have both less patience to learn and attention to detail, he asserts that his team follows his and Daniel’s direction and diligence.
We end our lunch by dreaming of the future, both wanting to one day own a restaurant. Though for Chef Assié this is not in the near future. Café Boulud at the Four Seasons Toronto is his home for a while to come and I think, Toronto is very lucky.
What do you think of the rebirth of Café Boulud? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below, or tweet us @ViewtheVibe.