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My First Piece of Art: Daniel Boulud

The French chef shares the story of the first painting he ever owned

When I opened my first restaurant, Daniel, on East 76th Street, I worried about what I was going to put on the walls. The David Findlay Galleries were next door and I decided to start a relationship with the owner, so I borrowed three paintings by the Spanish artist Esteban Vicente. Later I got a chance to meet the painter. I would go to his studio in Hell’s Kitchen, bringing a terrine or a little lunch. I spent a lot of time with him there, talking while he painted, looking at the work. I was discovering his art in the most vibrant, later part of his career, when he used many rich colors.

Daniel Boulud

I moved Daniel to East 65th Street four years later, and I found the artwork was not connecting anymore with the spirit of the restaurant. But I told the gallery when returning Esteban’s works that I wanted to buy this particular one because of its red tones. It reminded me of a period in my life: my first restaurant and time spent with Esteban. For me it’s about falling in love with the work and then the artist. He didn’t get the recognition he deserved. When I reopened Daniel, I moved into an apartment in the same building. Now this piece hangs in the dining area across from my kitchen, so I get to enjoy it a lot.