At a time when even socialites have publicists, it was intriguing to find that superstar chef David Bouley worked more or less without one. Aiming to do an interview with him for his new Bouley restaurant, I went through the proper channels and called his main office. After a few days with no response from even an underling, I resorted to more direct methods: I called Bouley's wife, Nicole, on her cell phone (full disclosure: my co-worker had the number because her sister is working on a book with the Bouleys). And Nicole, as it turned out, was intimately involved in the project -- from buying antique doors with David in the South of France to handpicking artist Wouter Dolk to design the lobby's mural. She put me in touch with her husband.
None of this should have been a surprise. The first time I interviewed David, about the new Bouley Bakery in 2005, I had to track him down at the opening party, guerrilla style, and try to schedule a time to meet. I was surprised, then, when he casually said, "Come at 4 o'clock" the next day.
This time around, he was equally relaxed about scheduling an interview and photo shoot -- which also meant he didn't sit down with me until about an hour after I arrived because he was busy with a staff meeting. Meanwhile, Nicole gave me the rundown of where they sourced some of the stone and antiques in the dining room -- everything, and I mean everything, came from France. I asked David if he couldn't find anything in America? "No," he said matter-of-factly, "I think that's true." And then he continued with his story about the family in Salernes who created the glazed tiles for the men's room.
When David finally sat down, he was visibly spent, slumping in his chair and yawning throughout the course of the interview. But the new restaurant seemed to energize him, because he perked up once he started giving the backstory on each design element in the space.
So the direct route worked out for the best. Sure, it would have been nice to have the interview start on time, but would a publicist have let their otherwise in-demand client who was just about to open one of the most eagerly awaited new boÃ®tes in town give three uninterrupted hours to a journalist? Doubtful.