Chefs come and go from restaurants all the time. When one is working for one of the most recognized chefs in the world, it's big food news.
This summer, Rick Mace signed on as executive chef at highly-renowned Cafe Boulud; obviously, we had to pick his brain about the position.
We chatted to Mace about local restaurants, working for Boulud, and how he's able to make the crazy hours of the restaurant industry work with his family life.
Clean Plate Charlie: You moved from Tennessee to Palm Beach in the height of the summer. How was the move for you and your family?
Mace: It's been a very nice transition. Since it was the low-season when I came down I was able to make the relocation and get underway with the restaurant with ease. It was the perfect time to get well acquainted and learn the operation. Now we're getting ready to switch gears; it's wedding season, we have a slew of holiday parties in December, and our normal clientele are coming back after that.
What were you doing in Tennessee?
For three years I was at a small boutique hotel, RT Lodge. It was Ruby Tuesday Restaurant Corporation's lodging and dining facility. Due to changes in the economy, the company decided it was too cost intensive to keep it running that way; the next best step was to open to the public. After a while, they decided it was more lucrative to focus only on events, which was a huge change from what I came in the door to do, but it was exciting to build a concept from the ground up. It became known as a destination events venue and the property continues to succeed as such.
Obviously, you lived in Tennessee. You also spent time working at Daniel Boulud Brasserie in Las Vegas. Where are you from originally?
I was born in Medina, Ohio, just outside Cleveland. I grew up on the family farm in Spencer, Ohio.
When did you start cooking?
When I was a teenager I went to spend time with my father in Cheyenne, Wyoming and decided to stay. It was just the two of us; so, my first kitchen job was cooking at home for the two of us. I, then, got a real job in a kitchen, loved it, enrolled in cooking school, and got into Daniel's kitchen.
Many of the guests at Cafe Boulud have been going for years. How would you differentiate your food from what they would have been used to under Jim Leiken or Zach Bell?
Any chef that is worth his salt can display an overt sense of reverence, not just for Daniel, but for the history and tradition of French food; I want to keep continuing with what's been here for ten years. I'm a bit different, though, because I didn't spend my 20's in New York City. I spent three years of that period in Vegas; so, I have varied experience. I would describe my style as straightforward honest food with a sense of reverence for place and respect to the area and ingredients. Growing up in the country, I really like simple dishes with local produce and a sense of place.
Have you found any restaurants you enjoy in South Florida since arriving?
I have yet to diner out much myself. Thankfully, we're just down the block from Buccan; it was the only experience I've had out of the kitchen.
What have you been doing when you're not working?
I spend a lot of time with my family; since I do work so much one thing that brings me some joy and success is I try to be very present in the time I do spend with them. We're nature lovers; so, we really enjoy going to the beach. We spend a lot of time together around the table; that's something we've gotten away from as a society. I think quality time conversing at the table is just as special as the meals we share.
Who does the cooking in your house?
I don't take myself seriously in the home kitchen. My wife is a great cook and baker; she does a lot of the cooking. We grill in the backyard quite a bit.
What can guests expect to see in the restaurant? Are you implementing any changes at the moment?
The menu here is set up with a structure of the foundations of Daniel's cuisine and seasonal produce; we;re not trying to be extremely creative here; we're trying to show classic French technique. Local produce is going through some changes right now; so, we're planning on some changes after Thanksgiving. I want to do some dishes that are very resonant of winter and the holidays. This is a very indulgent time of year; we're going to feature truffles, caviar, and things like that. People want to treat themselves to something special.
Cafe Boulud is located at 301 Australian Ave. in Palm Beach. Call 561-655-6060, or visit danielnyc.com.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
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