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    Daniel Rose

    American chef Daniel Rose conquered Paris before settling in New York as a flag-bearer in the revival of la cuisine bourgeoise at Le Coucou. He chats with Christine Muhlke about scouring libraries for forgotten recipes and why restaurants are a window into the soul of a city.

    The kitchen of Le Coucou. Photo by Ditte Isager courtesy of Le Coucou.

    Daniel Rose is one of our generation’s most convincing—and quietly provocative—culinary ambassadors. As the chef of Spring, he wooed Parisians with dishes that spotlighted American-accented freshness and seasonality rather than the master sauces—even though he trained solely in France, where he moved to study at the American University of Paris

    When he was lured to New York City to open Le Coucou in 2016, he knocked New Yorkers off the velvet banquettes with his mastery of classic French cuisine, adding his own wink to quenelles de brochet and “tout le lapin.” There are vegetables of the moment on his menu, to be sure, but oh, those sauces!

    Thanks to him, la cuisine bourgeoise has made a comeback in the city at restaurants such as La Mercerie, which is run by his wife, the French-born Marie Aude Rose, a cracklingly talented chef who trained with the likes of Pierre Gagnaire.

    While the Rose family can be found both Brooklyn and in Paris, where he still oversees Chez La Vieille et La Bourse et La Vie, travel—especially to cities—is still key to Daniel’s research and inspiration. “For me, a restaurant is a perfect window into the energy and personality of a city,” he says. “I’m inspired by the way restaurants conform to or confront a city’s personality.” Spoken like a true provocateur.

    Where do you and your family like to travel in France and Europe? One of the great things about France is the variety of easy-to-get-to places. We love the Alps in the winter, Brittany in the summer, Burgundy for weekends. And it is such a treat to escape to Rome, Berlin, Amsterdam, London, Venice, Prague, Vienna. It is so wonderful to be only a few hours from home and be surrounded by different energy, language, food. My favorite family vacation in France is to a small, nearly private chalet in the mountains called 1864. It’s the perfect hotel: it doesn’t feel like one!

    What are your favorite Paris spots for secret indulgences? For secret indulgences at very different ends of the spectrum, I love the pastry shop of Sébastien Gaudard on the Rue des Martyrs, and Mardin, the small Turkish shop for soup on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, for lunch, which happens frequently after I’ve been traveling.

    Sebastien Gaudard in Paris.

    Where do you love to escape to in New York City? I love the Met and the Guggenheim for a strolling escape. Ever since I was little, I’ve loved visiting the Met: it’s perfectly curated, and I always discover something new. I’m a little bit obsessed with Greek vases and Fayum painted mummy faces from Roman Egypt.

    Favorite restaurants and dishes in NYC? Marie and I love The Simone on 82nd St. It’s a very different New York sort of energy, and couldn’t be further away from a downtown vibe. It’s like a long hug from a beloved aunt or uncle. I also like Peter Luger’s and the two ladies selling congee out of a cart on the south side of Centre Street and Canal. I may have a congee problem.

    How often to you go home to Chicago, and where are you always sure to visit? We love to return to Chicago and usually go two or three times a year. It’s very much about Lou Malnati’s Pizza and time at home with family and friends. Marie and I spend basically every day in a restaurant, so I think we definitely put more emphasis on not going out!

    You’re credited with bringing back “la bonne cuisine bourgeoise.” Where do you seek inspiration for the recipes? The first step is identifying quality ingredients, and then trying to figure out what has been done to them already. Once that is done, an important decision needs to be made between conformity and conflict. That decision is based on whether or not what was done before meets the latest criteria for deliciousness, which can be pure taste or taste with some mix of interesting.

    To delve into the history, I love to browse the books and magazines and old menus at La Galcante in Paris or the collection of menus at the Bibliothèque Nationale. I also have a too-large collection of books on history and food that seems to contain an infinite amount of information and inspiration. I have been looking through the same books for 15 or 20 years, and still find something new every time. (It’s not unlike how I love to wander in a city and stroll through a museum to clear my head and open it up to seeing new old things … again!) The best series of books is the collection by Robert Laffont: “Les recettes originales de…” It is a real treasure.

    Where was your last vacation? Montauk.

    Where will your next vacation be? Good question! Tahiti with Marie-Aude.

    The thing you can’t travel without? The fancy noise-canceling headphones I said I would never be caught dead wearing.

    Plane, train or automobile? Automobile, for liberty!

    The people you’d most like to sit next to on a long-haul flight? Somebody with identical noise-cancelling headphones!

    What is your in-flight ritual? Sleep, with a little note that says, “Don’t wake me!”

    The language you wish you spoke? Yiddish.

    When were you happiest while traveling? Thailand with Marie to visit a very simple and special restaurant on the Mekong border of Laos.

    Desert island or downtown? Downtown. I love the energy of a city—the endless possibilities and possible endings.

    If you could live at any hotel, which would it be? Hotel Bristol, Vienna.

    The strangest place you’ve spent a night? On a stove, in a restaurant that was under construction.

    What is your favorite market? The Rungis food market just outside of Paris.

    If you could travel to any place in any epoch, which would it be? Vienna in 1910.

    What is your room service indulgence? I don’t eat in my room—I need to get out!

    Which places would you happily spend a weekend, a week, a month, and a year? A weekend in Santa Fe.
    A week in Beirut.
    A month in Morocco.
    A year in Berlin.

    Your biggest extravagance on the road? Cutting a trip short and flying home on a whim!

    Travel hell is? Airport delays.

    Where are you ashamed that you’ve never been? Seattle.

    Three favorite stores on earth? It’s hard to pick three, but one that stands out is La Galcante in Paris.

    Most treasured travel memento? Antique traditional clothing from Guatemala.

    Why do you travel? For escape, for inspiration, and to work.

    Christine Muhlke
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