Q&A With Chef Jim Leiken of Cafe Boulud in Palm Beach | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

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Q&A With Chef Jim Leiken of Cafe Boulud in Palm Beach

After checking out Bill Citara's review of Palm Beach's Cafe Boulud --

our Dish coulmn this week -- Clean Plate Charlie followed up for a

debrief with executive chef Jim Leiken. We talked about his new gig,

settling in, and what's to come at Cafe Boulud by Daniel.

Clean Plate Charlie: Two-part question. First, how would you differentiate your cooking from Zach Bell's? Second, our critic this week describes your cooking as a display of "bolder seasoning and bigger flavors." Can you speak to that?

Bell and I are from the same school, so our styles are

very similar. But each chef has his own idiosyncratic style. I've been

with Boulud for over ten years, most recently at DBGB, which aims to attract a younger crowd with bigger flavors than you'd

typically find at a restaurant by Daniel Boulud. So my most recent

tenure at DBGB comes through in my cooking here.

At Boulud's announcement

of your taking the helm here, he mentioned Bell's bringing a "Florida

feel" to cuisine at the restaurant. How has geography influenced your

cooking here so far?

Though I've only been in Florida two months, what's exciting so

far is finding fish I couldn't get in New York: all sorts of flounder,

snapper, spiny lobster, wahoo. We get our fish from Gary's Seafood out

of Orlando as well as several other purveyors. Part of my job here is to

assess and reevaluate relationships with purveyors to find the freshest

local ingredients that are available.

What's your favorite dish on the menu right now?

An eggplant-wrapped swordfish with lentil stew and

house-made merguez sausage. This is an example of a dish where I can play with

ingredients that are out of reach for me in New York, pricewise.

Swordfish is something I could have served as a special, but the price

was too high to add it to the menu at DBGB. The spiced lentils are bold,

and the sausage -- having worked with meat and charcuterie for so long -- is

dear to my heart. It's a fun dish, but it's also very Daniel.

What can we expect in the future?

I've already changed more than three-quarters of the menu from what it

was when Zach was here. Going forward, we'll take the temperature of

what people respond to, what's successful and what's not. We intend to

move in the same direction. This is a very successful restaurant, an

institution in Palm Beach.

Has your wife moved down from New York yet?

She's back and forth, managing our relocation. We're still trying to nail down housing.

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