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David Bouley, New York City chef known for his idiosyncratic approach to fine dining, dies at 70

NEW YORK — David Bouley, the award-winning and frenetic chef whose idiosyncratic haute cuisine and crusty breads pleased critics and the public during a career chasing sleek deliciousness, has died. He was 70.

Bouley died of a heart attack Monday at his home in Kent, Connecticut, according to Lisa Queen, his literary agent.

Along with Daniel Boulud, Alain Ducasse and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Bouley was part of a culinary vanguard in the 1980s that created the New American style and turned fine dining into an expressive art form, leading to the rise of rock star chefs.

“Cravings are for flavor. Intellectual cooking is a blast but what people want without thinking comes from the physical sensation of flavor,” he told Wine Spectator in 2012.

His dishes included serving raw yellowfin on a ring-molded mound of baby fennel, nestled in an emulsion decorated with dozens of dots of various herb oils. He served pineapple and artichokes with skate and added peppermint to lobster consommé. One of his signature dishes was a mushroom flan with cru Beaujolais.

“He is as responsible as any chef for the high Gothic style of the ’80s,” Grub Street wrote in 2017. People magazine named him one of its “50 Most Beautiful People” in 1994.

Bouley followed his muse, willing to change a menu on the fly, close a restaurant on a whim, and experiment with sous-vide cooking or Japanese kaiseki. He began cooking traditional French rustic dishes like braised rabbits and later in life stressed naturopathy with nutrient dense dishes. The New York Times lauded him for “his hungry mind and insatiable appetite for change, motion and new information.”

Bouley was born in Storrs, Connecticut, with dual French and American citizenship and trained in kitchens in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, as well as France and Switzerland.

After studying at the Sorbonne, he worked for such chefs as Roger Vergé, Paul Bocuse, Joel Robuchon, Gaston Lenôtre, and Frédy Girardet. He learned his craft in the kitchens of Le Cirque, Le Périgord and La Côte Basque.

Bouley spent much of his career cooking in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan, starting with Montrachet when it opened in 1985 — earning three stars from The New York Times — and then his own restaurant, Bouley, two years later.

Other restaurants he worked in include Danube, Bouley Bakery, Upstairs at Bouley, Bouley at Home, Secession and Brushstroke, a collaborative effort with the Tsuji Culinary Institute in Osaka, Japan. Danube and Bouley Bakery each earned two Michelin stars. Brushstroke earned a Michelin star in its first year and landed on GQ’s list of the 10 best restaurants in America.

The restaurant Bouley — which famously had a foyer filled with apples — closed in 2017 after 30 years and several location changes, earning a three-star from the New York Times the year previously. The critic highlighted what he called the most dramatic dish, a Malibu sea urchin in its spiky shell, filled with tofu, soy, vinegar, yuzu jelly, salmon trout roe, sea urchin and yuzu sorbet.

Bouley Bakery became a base of operations for relief right after the 9/11 terror attacks in cooperation with the Red Cross, and more than 1 million meals were prepared and served at ground zero, although there were allegations some money was misappropriated.

Bouley trained a new generation of chefs, including Dan Barber, Eric Ripert, Christina Tosi, César Ramirez, Amy Scherber, Alex Ureña, Anita Lo, Galen Zamarra, Kurt Gutenbrunner, Brian Bistrong and Bill Yosses.

Among his awards are the title of Outstanding Chef in 1995 and 2000, and Outstanding Restaurant in 1991 from the James Beard Foundation. He also sold a line of chairs, tables and mirrors.

He is survived by his wife, Nicole Bartelme.

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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