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Renowned chef David Bouley dies in Kent

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KENT—Renowned New York City chef David Bouley, who maintained a home in Kent for more than two decades, died of a heart attack Feb. 12, according to an announcement made by his literary agent. He was 70 years old. 

He is survived by his widow, Nicole Bartelme.

Elissa Potts, proprietor of the Fife ‘n Drum Restaurant, recalled Bouley as “the most amazing chef,” and said he was attracted to his Howland Road farm because he wanted to grow healthful produce there for his many New York enterprises. 

“He was very private,” she said. “He would come up late at night and come in for our last dinner. He loved the wine list here.”

Bouley was much honored over the course of his long career, beginning in 1987 when he opened his namesake restaurant, Bouley, in TriBeCa. The restaurant earned a four-star review in The New York Times and won over six James Beard Foundation awards, including Best Restaurant and Best Chef. 

In 2015, Bouley was awarded the “Best Restaurant Award in the United States” from TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards, ranking Number 14 in the world. Bouley also received a 29 out of 30 rating in Zagat for decades, finishing with a 4.9 out of five in 2020.

In 1991, Zagat asked 7,000 diners, “Where you would you eat the last meal of your life?” Respondents “overwhelmingly” chose Bouley.

People magazine named him one of its “50 Most Beautiful People” in 1994.

Then, in 1997, Bouley closed his restaurant and opened Bouley Bakery and Danube, both on the same block as the old Bouley restaurant. Bouley Bakery quickly earned a four-star review from the New York Times and two Michelin stars. The bakery catered to more than 5,000 guests daily before changing its location in 2008 and resuming the name Bouley. 

His other restaurant, Danube, also received two Michelin stars before it was transformed into a new entity called Brushstroke Restaurant, which opened in 2011 as a combined effort between Bouley and the Tsuji Culinary Institute in Osaka. Its cuisine shares Japanese food culture and products and integrates American ingredients. Awarded a Michelin Star in its first year and listed in GQ’s list of the 10 best restaurants in America, the restaurant maintained the Bouley tradition of sharing, education and creating dishes for better health. 

Ichimura, a sushi counter within Brushstroke, garnered two Michelin stars.

The chef was a champion of healthy eating and in 2013 he launched The Chef & The Doctor series, a collaborative lecture and dinner series hosted by himself and world-renowned doctors and nutritionists. Alternative, preventive and functional medicine were at the core of each presentation, with nutrient-dense dishes complementing each lecture. 

Bouley studied the health benefits of Japanese cuisine and culture and in 2015 received the honorary title of Japanese Cuisine Goodwill Ambassador, awarded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for exemplifying the spirit of “Washoku,” (“harmony of food”). At that time, he was the first non-Japanese recipient of this award.

In 2017, Bouley received an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from UConn for his accomplishments in advancing the science of gastronomy as a vehicle for optimal health. He also won lifetime achievement awards from Dr. Peter Green, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, and Dr. Barry Smith, president of the Rogosin Institute and a professor of clinical surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College.

In 2020, the French Government awarded him the title of Knight in the Ordre du Mérite de l’Agriculture et de l’Alimentation, one of five categories of The Legion of Honor, the highest decoration in France.

Bouley was also known for his many TV appearances, which included “Good Morning America,” “Late Night with David Letterman,” “Charlie Rose” on PBS, and others.

Age did not slow his drive. Prior to the pandemic, Bouley monitored a class in the Harvard Executive MBA program and was persuaded that part of the solution to better health involves tailoring guests’ menus to their specific needs, optimizing the healing power of food and educating the diner. He wrote a book, “Bouley at Home: Living Pantry,” scheduled for publication by Flatiron Press this year.

Bouley, who held dual American and French citizenship, was born and raised in Storrs, and was influenced by his French-speaking grandparents, who had a farm in Rhode Island. His grandmother cooked for six- and seven-hour Sunday family gatherings, impressing on him the benefits of fresh ingredients.

He worked in restaurants from his youth on Cape Cod and in Sante Fe before traveling to Europe where he studied at the Sorbonne and had the opportunity to work with renowned chefs in France and Switzerland. Returning to New York, he worked in some of the leading restaurants of the time, including Le Cirque, Le Périgord and La Côte Basque. He was sous chef in a San Francisco restaurant opened by Roger Vergé before becoming a chef at Montrachet restaurant when it opened in TriBeCa in 1985. The restaurant and its chef quickly drew attention and earned a three-star review in The New York Times.

Kathryn Boughton
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    S Tanner

    March 21, 2024 at 9:28 pm

    Chef David Bouley was the underdog for all chefs. He set high standards for himself and through his hard work inspired others. Kent was a resource for him to dream into the landscapes and nature away from all the moving parts of the restaurants. I would often meet him and his wife Nicole, a photographer, on walks along the Appalachian Trail. There was an eight mile radius where they loved to forage for wild onion grass, ramps and mushrooms. David loved to watch the kayakers ride the waves, Nicole would photograph them in the mist. They were a beautiful couple that played off each other with humor and endless health tips. David was a force of nature. He will be missed. Condolences to Nicole and all the people they championed.

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