Daniel Boulud made a pit stop in Palm Beach yesterday to announce Cafe Boulud’s new chef, James “Jim” Leiken, his former top toque at DBGB Kitchen and Bar in New York.
Leiken has been with the Boulud group since 2001 and worked his way up to become the executive chef opening DBGB, Boulud’s gourmet burger spot in Manhattan, in 2009.
“I’m excited about the opportunity here, but sad to be leaving the Boulud family in New York,” Leiken said.
Bell leaving for country club job
Chef Zach Bell, who opened Cafe Boulud in 2003, leaves the Boulud group to work first for his spouse, Jennifer Bell, at the Sugar Monkey bakery in West Palm Beach. He will take a position as executive chef at the Addison Reserve Country Club in Delray Beach in August.
“It’s a big day,” Bell said at Cafe Boulud’s press conference-farewell lunch. “I have no words, and I have so much to say. More than a third of my life has been with Boulud. I learned an amazing amount from Daniel about running a kitchen and about myself, and I learned an amazing amount about what I didn’t know. It’s been an amazing opportunity.”
Boulud credited Bell with integrating and creating dishes suited to Florida, based on ingredients from local purveyors, while using classic technique and profiles Boulud is known for. “Zach mainained our reputation and consistency and brought excitement to the restaurant. His talent and caring and passion made people inspired – it’s so important in the kitchen.”
The staff followed Bell’s confident leadership, Boulud said, joking that Bell was definitely the “boss” of the Palm Beach restaurant. “I almost had to ask permission to come and visit.”
Boulud and Leiken to have homes here
Boulud said he’s in the process of buying a house in Palm Beach County and will be spending more time at Cafe Boulud, helping Leiken develop new recipes and get settled in. “We’re going to do some renovation at Cafe Boulud as well; a new bar area and we’ll be closing in part of the courtyard,” Boulud said.
Leiken begins duties at the stoves July 4. “Give him some time,” Boulud joked, “Don’t come and everything new and perfect on the first day.”
Leiken and wife Candace also are looking for a home in Palm Beach County. “Money goes a lot farther down here,” he said. “I’m looking forward to having a back yard.”
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