Chef David Bouley ’17H wants you to think about how food makes you feel.
This concept has guided the career of the award-winning New York chef and restauranteur, who was rated number 1 on Zagat and awarded best restaurant in the country by Trip Advisor, along with several James Beard Foundation awards. He has also received lifetime achievement awards from the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University and the Rogosin Institute at Weill Cornell Medical College, for his efforts in researching and serving foods tailored to diners with health concerns. He works with doctors to develop menus based on the idea that food can be a cure.
“We’ve learned that food is a conversation with the DNA in our bodies,” said Bouley. “We try to educate without making people feel that they have to change their life. The most exciting point that they often tell me is that they weren’t taught to think about food in this way.”
Bouley recently demonstrated his approach to food and wellness during an exclusive Founders and Charles Lewis Beach Society event at the Bouley Test Kitchen in New York City on April 19, hosted by Foundation board member Drew Figdor and his wife, Michelle. As a child, Bouley grew up near UConn and attended E.O. Smith High School. He recently received an honorary degree from UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources in 2017.
“I used to love to go and see the different kinds of classes that were offered,” he said. “I was very interested in the agriculture department. My mother was teaching early childhood education at the University, [and] my sister got her Ph.D. at UConn, so there’s always been a relationship there.”
After graduation, he was the restaurant manager at Pink Adobe in Santa Fe, owned by Rosie Murphy. He credits Murphy for encouraging him to pursue a career as a chef. Bouley studied at the Sorbonne in France, where he fell in love with the country’s food culture.
“I was so seduced by the level of commitment, passion, the relationship with farmers, and the entire environment,” he said. “I wanted to see how I could bring that to the States.”
His restaurants use fresh, organic ingredients in each plate, which is designed to demonstrate how food can improve and impact overall health. His Bouley at Home concept provides the comfort and familiarity of kitchen counters that serve as the dining space. He also offers hands-on cooking classes with professional chefs and doctors.
“People practice and get the teamwork that we’re looking for,” he said. “If you’re going to get healthy, your kitchen is ready for you.”
Bouley has traveled extensively around the world to learn about the healing science of whole foods and nature. It is his life’s work to inspire people to rethink their relationship with food.
“The favorite meal is the one that gives you happiness and enjoyment [and] gives you the same satisfaction hours later,” Bouley said. “It’s the food that makes you wake up one day.”
Chef David Bouley’s Three Tips for At-Home Cooks:
Organize your kitchen: learn how to build a Living Pantry so you can cook meals throughout the week.
Make an effort to buy organic goods. There’s lots of great items and new things on the market to try.
Approach cooking as something that’s fun. Be excited and share food knowledge while you build a community, happy family, and great health.