Francophiles, gastronomes, and oenophiles flocked to Michelin two-star Restaurant Daniel, in Manhattan, New York on September 14th, 2023. This gathering is where Chef Daniel Boulud hosted a tribute dinner to celebrate the legacy of his friend, the famed Michelin three-star chef Bernard Loiseau, who passed away in February 2003.
Chef Loiseau was “a cult figure of worldwide reputation,” according to author Rudolph Chelminski, in The Perfectionist, Life and Death in Haute Cuisine, Gotham, 2006. His innovative techniques — braising in water and removing the fat — resulted in what has been dubbed cuisine des essences, which captured the flavors of the ingredients and replaced cream and butter. Le style Loiseau elevated La Côte d’Or, the existing gastronomic restaurant located 150-miles southeast of Paris, into an international dining mecca, renamed Relais Bernard Loiseau.
The celebrated 5-star Relais & Châteaux restaurant, country inn and spa destination is located in Saulieu, France at the gateway to the Burgundian vineyards and near RN7, the route that connects Parisians with the Côte d’Azur. Twenty years ago, news about the sudden death of arguably the most famous chef in France (his name recognition ranked 9 out of 10) was a lead story throughout the country and in the world of haute gastronomie française. Plus, innumerable food-loving households were stunned and saddened.
Dominique Loiseau, his widow, holds a master’s degree in Biochemistry and was a food educator and journalist who, as Maître de la Maison, became the property’s Director in 2001 and CEO dedicated to maintaining the legendary culinary achievements of her late husband. Today, the aubergiste (innkeeper) is President of Honor of the Bernard Loiseau Group; her daughter, Bérangère Loiseau, is Director of the group, which includes venues in Saulieu, Beaune, Dijon, and Besançon, where her youngest daughter, Blanche, is chef of the new restaurant. Madame Loiseau’s role in hospitality extends beyond the family business; notably, as the first female Vice President of Relais & Chateaux, in 2005, and recipient of the prestigious Légion d’Honneur award, in 2008.
The reception was chance for guests to chat with the French hosts and several recanted personal memories, menus, and pictures of their gastronomic experiences, there. For me, it was a chance to reconnect with Madame Loiseau after a stay in 2018, where I dined and enjoyed Villa Loiseau des Sens, the spa that she created next to her personally tended garden.
Champagne Hervé Rafflin “La Nature,” (the house Champagne chez Daniel), was served along with three amuses, specialités of Relais Bernard Loiseau. Passed out as bite-sized hors d’oeuvres, we were served: Gougères Feuilletée au Comté, a cheesy puff pastry; Sphère d’Escargot à La Bourguignonne, a snail encased in an edible shell; and, Chips De Ris Et Bille D’Époisses à La Menthe, a cow’s milk époisse cheese atop a rice cracker.
At dinner, Chef Daniel Bouloud displayed his own saved, signed menu and reminisced about when the two dined together in New York in 1996. And then again in Saulieu, France in 1998 where they ate well following Chef Loiseau’s theory, “You cannot be a great cook if you don’t know how to eat well!”. The host welcomed his friend, Dominique Loiseau, and introduced er daugter, Bérangère Loiseau.
“I am honored to have the chance to host this special dinner alongside the daughter of my dear friend Bernard,” he remarked. “It’s inspiring to see what Bérangère and the Loiseau family have achieved in honor of Bernard, allowing his impact on the culinary industry to live on. I’m excited to be partnering with them to bring a taste of what they’ve done in France to our guests here in New York City for one night only.”
He also introduced Michelin two-star Chef Patrick Bertron, who was at Bernard Loiseau’s side for 20 of the 41 years he has worked in the Burgundian kitchen. On this occasion, Chef Bertron and his team plus Boulud’s staff members featured Saulieu specialties that illustrate his devotion to bringing “the local environment to the plate.”
Relais Bernard Loiseau boasts one of the finest cellars in Burgundy, with 15,000 bottles, 900 labels and 40 wines by the glass. Executive Chef Sommelier, Eric Goettelmann, Meilleur Ouvrier de France 2019, creates the wine lists for all the group’s restaurants. For this homage, wines were sourced from Maison Albert Bichot, a family that dates to 1214, settled in Burgundy in 1350, and established the family winery in 1831. Director Albéric Bichot directs the Domaine, which owns six estates in Burgundy across 270 hectares. Five of these have already been officially certified organic and the sixth is scheduled to convert to organic viticulture by 2025.
The first wine, Albert Bichot, Montagny 1er Cru, a delicate Chardonnay from Cote Chalonnaise, paired well with Carpaccio de Saint Jacques, Crèpe de Chou Fleur, Caviar Oscietre, Beurre Blanc Mousseux, a delicate serving of thinly sliced scallops atop a creamy cauliflower puree, with Ossetra caviar and a light beurre blanc. It was followed by a signature Burgundian freshwater fish dish: Sandre sur la Peau, Gateau d’Echalote et son Crumble, Sauce au vin rouge. Here, North American Walleye Pike (a yellow perchpike) roasted on the skin atop was presented on a red Burgundy wine sauce and accompanied by a crisp basket enclosing caramelized shallots.
Our server poured Albert Bichot Beaune « Clos de l’Ermitage » with the Poularde à la Vapeur “Alexandre Dumaine” Chartreuse of Vegetables and Truffled Rice, which honored Master Chef Alexandre Dumaine, who preceded Bernard Loiseau at La Côte d’Or and maintained its three-star status for almost thirty years, with Jeanne, his wife, General Manager, and closest advisor. The presentation demonstrates how talent, creativity (steaming the chicken), technique (the 18th-century “chartreuse,” wraps and cooks vegetables within a decorative leaf) and a prize garnish (truffle), uplifts chicken and rice into an ethereal culinary realm. Next, the Émulsion aux Herbes et Sorbet aux épices douces, was akin to a savory intermezzo with Herb Foam and Spiced Sorbet and served as a pre-dessert.
The Rose des Sables Chocolat Grand Cru Manjari au Coulis d’Oranges Confites dessert made with Valrhona chocolate — a French maker committed to creating a fair and sustainable world of cocoa — features a rare cocoa from Madagascar. The gorgeous concoction showcased soft chocolate cream layered between cocoa biscuits arranged as an open shell above a candied orange coulis and paired with a rosé, Patrick Bottex, ‘La Cueille,’ Bugey-Cerdon, France NV.
The Restaurant Daniel tribute dinner was the first international event in a commemorative world tour to honor Bernard Loiseau. It followed a week-long series in Burgundy, in February, and continued to Sao Paulo, Brazil, and will conclude in December, in Tokyo and Kobe, Japan.