Volume 17 • Issue 29 | Dec. 10 -16, 2004

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert

Bouley restaurant and the bakery space he is renovating across the street.

Bouley’s Tribeca expansion moves back to the frontburner

By Ronda Kaysen

If David Bouley has his way, all of Tribeca will soon be cooking his meals at home. The dapper celebrity chef has plans to re-open his famed Bouley Bakery and dazzle Downtowners with an organic market, a casual eatery and a small-scale cooking school on the top floor.

“It’s like a small jewel box; it is tiny, tiny, tiny,” Bouley said of the new bakery, which will be located in a small two-story building across the street from Bouley’s two high-end restaurants, Danube and Bouley. “It’s going to be better focused than the [previous] bakery.”

When the bakery opens in March at 130 West Broadway, it will offer the culinary curious 2-hour-long cooking demonstrations led by Bouley’s sous chef, his pastry chef, three chefs from Japan and David Bouley himself. “I hope I can teach at least a couple of times a week,” he said in a telephone interview with Downtown Express. The demonstrations, priced around $100 to $150, will end with either a tasting or “a more serious meal” either at the bakery or at one of the two restaurants across the street.

“Too many people would like to eat a healthy meal with their family and they can’t just get their hands on it, they just don’t know how to do it,” said Bouley. “We’re going to teach people how to sear, how to roast, how to sauté, how to steam.”

The secret to good cooking, said the Connecticut-born chef, is attitude. “You have to pay attention to certain rules of cooking,” he said. “But really, cooking is just having fun.”

The re-opening of the bakery comes after a long line of setbacks for Bouley. The original bakery — far larger than its 500-square-feet-per-floor revival — closed its doors to expand the restaurant at 120 West Broadway. The restaurant reopened in Feb. 2002 as Bouley, a nod to the lauded establishment of the same name that closed in 1996. In Jan. 2002, Bouley sold the Mohawk Electric building on Duane St. to developer Joseph Pell Lombardi, closing the door on his plans to create a culinary empire there.

The bakery’s imminent re-opening has effectively ended speculation of a Bouley establishment in the Mohawk’s ground floor. Lombardi said that he is in negotiations with several restaurateurs — none of them Bouley — about the Mohawk.

Bouley came under heavy fire when he secured a lucrative food service contract from the Red Cross to provide meals to ground zero rescue workers and snubbed many of his own employees in favor of volunteer workers. In March 2003, his insurance company sued him for failing to report a $5.8 million payment from the Red Cross when he filed a claim for lost business at his restaurants. The matter was eventually settled out of court. In June, Bouley suffered his latest setback: the New York Times stripped Bouley restaurant of one of its stars, lowering its rating from four stars to three.

The new bakery will be more than a re-opening; it will be an improvement upon the original, said Bouley. “It was very difficult having the restaurant in the kitchen,” he said of the previous layout. “Now it’s separated. Most of the production is coming from the production kitchen across the street.”

The basement will be an organic market, selling ice cream and sauces made at Bouley and Danube, fish delivered from Cape Cod and various cheeses. Shoppers can expect to find all of the meats prepared in his restaurants, including antelope, Kobe beef, quail and pigeon. Antelope, said Bouley, tastes surprisingly like artichokes and mushrooms. “It’s very wild tasting,” he said.

“There’s no place [in Tribeca] to find the kind of fish like that, the kind of meat like that,” said Bouley.

The bakery has been a long time coming for many in the neighborhood. “I’m loving it, I can hardly wait for it to open,” said Sharon Hershkowitz, owner of Balloon Saloon, a balloon shop located across the street from the new bakery site. “I know Bouley’s Bakery that he had here before and I’m eager to have something nice here again.”
Bouley said that often he found himself fielding questions from Tribeca residents, eager to see the bakery return. “One woman lectured me for half an hour,” he recalled. “I thought she was joking at first, but then I realized she was really angry. She said, where is she supposed to find her bread anymore? I told her she could still come [to the restaurants] and I would take care of her, but she never did.”

The bakery’s first floor will sell breads, baked goods, sushi and food for take-out, which can be prepared in less than 20 minutes at home. Visitors who choose to eat at the restaurant can venture to the second floor for breakfast and lunch to nibble on their pain au chocolat and coffee. He said the prices would be affordable although he did not mention specifics.

For dinner, the second floor — which also serves as the cooking school — will serve tasting menus with drinks prepared by bar chef and longtime Bouley partner Albert Trummer.

“It’s awesome. It’s a special kind of place,” said the Austrian-born drink maker. “It’s a different kind of place that we’re doing. It will be a very creative, quality cocktail bar.” Trummer also owns a seasonal bar in Long Island, Trummer Home.

Not all of Tribeca is meeting Bouley’s latest endeavor with such enthusiasm, however. Julie Nadel, a resident of 16 Hudson St., the co-op building where Danube and Bouley are located, has had a contentious relationship with the restaurateur. Bouley sued the co-op board in 1998 — while Nadel was its president — when the board refused to sign a work permit for renovations to his restaurant. The board contended that Bouley had not provided them with plans of the renovations. Eventually, the co-op was allowed to see the plans. “It’s been difficult, really difficult,” she said of her relationship with the chef. “It has not been fun.”

Aside from concerns about ventilation, Nadel is less concerned about the new establishment across the street, primarily because it is not on her property. “I wish them luck, whoever owns the building, and I hope [Bouley] is paying a lot of rent.”

The building’s current owners, Century Realty, are far more optimistic about their new tenant. “It’s going to look beautiful,” said Jana Vanek, a spokesperson for the company. “They [Bouley] are doing a complete renovation, everything old was completely ripped up, even good stuff. They are starting from scratch.”

The space housed Richard’s sandwich shop up until a few months ago.

Community Board 1 raised concerns with Bouley when he applied for a liquor license about ventilation and how it will affect the two neighboring buildings, both of which are taller than 130 West Broadway. According to the board’s assistant district manager, Judy Duffy, Bouley was accommodating. “Of course they were willing to work with us,” she said. “They wanted their liquor license.”

Hershkowitz of Balloon Saloon, is looking forward to enjoying the views of Tribeca from the second floor. “I really miss having a good place to sit down and people watch,” she said. But even this Bouley faithful has her concerns about such convenient access to brownies and cheesecake. “I better start going to the gym more often,” she said.


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