Earlier this year, Café Boulud in the Brazilian Court Hotel welcomed Dieter Samijn as its executive chef. The Belgian native previously worked for chefs Alain Ducasse, Peter Goossens, and Bart Vandaele before relocating to Bar Boulud in New York City. In his new role at Café Boulud, Samijn says he has embraced local products, allowing them to drive his specials, along with input from his team.
“I talk daily to suppliers, fishermen, and growers of produce,” he notes. “Then we work it out with the chefs and cooks in the kitchen. For a special, I always like to hear from my team what ideas they have as a form of developing them as chefs.”
The collaborative environment has resulted in such creative one-offs as halibut wrapped in halibut bacon, as well as menu additions like grilled octopus with avocado, yuzu kosho, and beet. House-made charcuterie has also come into focus, as well as subtle influences from Samijn’s home country including chicken served with Belgian endive.
Of course, as a veteran of Boulud kitchens and a classically trained chef, Samijn has a reverence for French cuisine. “We have frequent guests who ask us to prepare certain dishes, mostly classics, either from Daniel or other classic French dishes. Classics never die.”
Speaking of classics, chef Daniel Boulud will join the Café Boulud team for its fifteenth annual truffle dinner December 9. The café will host a truffle luncheon the following day, December 10. Tickets are $600 for the dinner and $400 for the lunch.
Below, Samijn chats with PBI about his new role.
PBI: What’s an item on the menu that you feel really captures you as a chef?
Samijn: One current dish that really captures what I love to do in the kitchen is the duck breast. It’s served with a waffle that is stuffed with braised leg. Why? When I put an entrée on the menu, I have to be able to recognize the products and ingredients, without having certain flavors jump out too much; everything has to be in line with the other. It has to give the right feel for the right season. We use whole ducks, which is not the cheapest way of preparing the dish, but the idea here was to use all of the parts in a single dish.
What are you enjoying most about working in Palm Beach thus far?
The team and the talent I can work with; I enjoy that the most, but I’m also really grateful that each one of them really wants to be at Café Boulud and work here.
What do you feel are some of your culinary signatures that guests will see across your menus?
This fall, we have a chicken on the menu that resembles a bit of the flavors from my childhood. We use Belgian endive that is cooked for hours and celery root. Of course, we also keep focusing on our in-house made charcuterie. Next to that, I try to bring fresher seafood options like Hiramasa with apple, jalapeño, cucumber juice, and sea lettuce. It’s super refreshing.