Redefining Haute Cuisine in Paris
Chicago-born chef Daniel Rose has made a big impression on Paris’ dining scene with his insanely popular restaurant Spring. Considered part of the bistronomy movement in Paris – where chefs have ditched the Michelin institution, ornate decor and 5-dollar-sign prices for bistros with high-quality food that won’t break the bank – Rose keeps his prix fixe menu small and not overly complex, with modern interpretations of French classics. Spring has won over critics time and time again, so if you’re headed to Paris, plan ahead – the 29-seat restaurant is booked out months in advance. We chat with Rose about French restaurant culture, the importance of an open kitchen and his favorite Parisian restaurants.
AndrewZimmern.com: Why did you move to Paris initially? Why did you stay?
Daniel Rose: I moved to Paris to finish college. I had never stepped foot in Europe and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t speak a word of French, but I figured diving in head first would be the best way to learn. I knew vaguely about the Eiffel Tower and baguettes, but it was mostly what I learned in children’s books from the public library. What I found in France were some of the stereotypes of course, but mostly a different way of engaging the world through work, food, family and tradition. I needed to understand more, so I stayed and went to cooking school. Cuisine and restaurants are an excellent window into the beginning of understanding France and the French. I’m still learning, by the way.
AZ.com: What are some of the differences between France and the U.S. when it comes to restaurant culture?
DR: There is an unspoken understanding about the way in which restaurants function in France that everyone collectively seems to understand. You don’t order coffee with dinner, cheese comes before dessert, you don’t ask for the rest of your food to be wrapped up to go, you do not send a wine bottle back because you don’t like it, but only it if is bad… It isn’t so much that these things are not possible to do, but more so that ‘one doesn’t do them.’ The idea that the ‘customer is king’ (that maintaining your business is actually a priority) may not be as important to some people in the restaurant industry as maintaining a certain code of behavior. Somewhere in there is the idea that a restaurant is not a service provided to the customer, but that the customer has the privilege of participating in a great tradition that is upheld by the restaurant. Being able to participate ‘correctly’ and eloquently is a sign of status, education and experience. I rarely think about this so carefully, but I would say this is a very fundamental difference in the culture of restaurants.
AZ.com: How would you describe your cooking style? Who has been your biggest influence?
DR: The style of cooking at Spring is classic French – even if I have chosen preparation that may seem very modern. I am inspired by the traditional giants: Marie-Antoine Careme, Auguste Escoffier, Fernand Point, Eugénie Brazier, Paul Bocuse, Alain Chapel, Louis Outhier, Roger Vergé, Frédy Girardet, up to those that are still very active today – Pierre Gagnaire, Alain Passard… There are many.
AZ.com: At the original Spring, you were the only employee. Now that you’ve moved to a larger space, you’re managing a larger staff. How has this changed your role in the kitchen?
DR: I suppose that the difference is that now I am actually a Chef, before I was simply a cook and a host. Now there are people and careers to manage. I’m everything from staff psychologist to the emergency plumber these days… and I have the responsibility of correctly shepherding the business. It is wonderfully challenging and now I have many talented people to help me. Successful collaboration is very rewarding.
AZ.com: Why did you decide to have an open kitchen?
DR: I suppose I never really decided. It was a necessity. It was the only way I could imagine being at once in the kitchen and at once in the dining room when I opened the first restaurant. Because I changed the menu every day, the only way to be sure if people were enjoying themselves was to not only to be able to see them, but to feel the energy in the room. It sounds a little new age goofy, but it was an important part of the success of the first restaurant.
AZ.com: What’s on your agenda when the restaurant is closed on Sunday and Monday?
DR: The only thing on the agenda is recovery: recovering some peace and quiet, time to eat and drink (sitting down!), and especially recovering time with Marie-Aude and Wilhelmina. Paris is a wonderful city to live in and we walk everywhere on the weekends. Wandering in Paris is an excellent way to enjoy time away from the restaurant.
AZ.com: Favorite restaurants in Paris?
DR: We have lots of favorites, but Yam’Tcha is certainly high on the list, as is the Relais de l’Entrecote despite being very different from one another. We like brunch at Le Bal Café or coffee at Ten Belles. I like Chez Denise for a late-night traditional, old fashioned bistro.
AZ.com: What’s in your fridge?
DR: These days there are a lot of good things in my refrigerator. My wife, who is also a cook, is always making fermented vegetables and stews for me to eat when I come home from work after she has already gone to sleep. Last night was potatoes cooked very slowly with a pig shoulder from near Biarritz, a few of the last tomatoes of the season and piles of homemade fermented cabbage. Lots of fresh fruit purées for the Willy. Pears have been delicious the last few days in particular.
Get Daniel’s recipe for Deep-fried Oysters with Green Asparagus and Asparagus Vinaigrette.
Chef Daniel Rose’s food melds the tradition of classical French cuisine with a contemporary, personal approach to fresh market ingredients. His restaurant, Spring, at which he is Chef and Owner, has been at the forefront of the Paris and international dining scene since opening his first 16-seat location in 2006. A Chicago-native, Daniel Rose landed in France to study at The American University of Paris. In an effort to improve his French, he found himself at thé Institut Bocuse in Lyon, nourishing a passion for the restaurant business that would turn into a vibrant career. Rose credits his post-college work at Auberge des Abers in Brittany and Le Pre du Moulin in Serignan du Comtat, near Avignon as providing him with the culinary foundation that he often relies upon in mentoring his present day team. Rose cooked for some the world’s most esteemed Michelin three-star restaurants and chefs including Paul Bocuse in Lyon, Jean-Pierre Bruneau in Brussels and Yannick Alleno at the Le Meurice in Paris. He traces his turning point from cook to chef to a life-changing year spent in Panajachel, Guatemala in 2003 – Rose’s first experience as a Head Chef, running a kitchen and managing a team. Following that experience, Rose moved back to Paris in 2004, joining the restaurant team at the five-star Hotel Meurice. In 2006, the first iteration of Spring was born. By July 2010, Spring’s five month waiting list became the impetus for a move to a larger space near the Louvre in the lively Les Halles neighborhood. Rose’s Spring has since earned the distinction as The Guardian’s “One of 10 of the Best Restaurants in Paris,” Forbes’ “The Trophy Reservation,” and has become the Paris restaurant of choice for an international culinary elite including Gail Simmons, Alan Richman, Tim and Nina Zagat, Danny Meyer, and Alain Ducasse. Rose and Spring have been profiled in the Chicago Sun Times, ELLE, L’Express, Figaroscope, Forbes, The Guardian, GQ, International Herald Tribune, New York Times, Travel + Leisure, Wall Street Journal and many others.
Photograph by Owen Franken.