The Covid-19 pandemic forced French chef Daniel Boulud to close his eight U.S. restaurants in March. Just like other Michelin-starred chefs, he has been offering his fine cuisine to go. In San Francisco, French chef Dominique Crenn (3 stars) followed the trend along with Alsace-born chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten (2 stars) and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon (2 stars) in New York. “We were forced to transform how we worked throughout the pandemic, with meals to go and now a home delivery service,” says Boulud.
The French chef’s activity has undergone a small revolution. He now sells his signature dishes flash-frozen or vacuum-packed via the Goldbelly delivery service, which works across the United States. The platform is generally reserved for sandwich shops and bistros, but is now delivering kits enabling foodies to prepare dishes from their favorite restaurants at home. The offering includes burgers from Shake Shack, bagels from Zabar’s, pierogis from Polish diner Veselka in Manhattan, ribs from Joe’s KC BBQ in Kansas, and the renowned French dip sandwich from Philippe’s, a restaurant founded by a French immigrant in Los Angeles in 1908.
Several meal kits dishes from the kitchens at Daniel on East 65th Street in Manhattan are also available. Four-person braised beef short ribs (349 dollars) are delivered with a selection of precooked vegetables and enough potatoes to make the chef’s signature purée. The whole meal takes just an hour to cook. The bouillabaisse (379 dollars) is made with black sea bass, red snapper, tile fish, monkfish, shrimp, mussels, and squid. “These are the same fish, of the same quality, as at Daniel,” says the chef. “But the ingredients are flash-frozen for safety reasons while they are transported.”
The other dishes available include cuts of Wagyu beef for six people served with three types of aromatic butters (329 dollars), a platter of smoked salmon, salmon rillettes, and trout roe (239 dollars), and a box of 24 chocolate, pistachio, and raspberry macarons (109 dollars). A simple, select menu that seems to be a big hit with customers. The Lyon-born chef, who says he sends out 70 bouillabaisse kits per week, is now developing a cassoulet kit to be made at home and other classics from the French culinary canon.
The preparation of meal kits is a way to keep work going in the vast production kitchens covering an entire floor above the Daniel restaurant. They generally take care of catering orders, but will never replace table service. (New York City authorized indoor service on September 30, but restaurants are still limited to 25% of their full capacity.) “The cuisine served at Daniel is more elaborate than the kits,” says the Michelin-starred chef. “But by ordering my dishes online, it’s a bit like I was coming to cook at your home!”