How do you coax Anthony Bourdain, Daniel Boulud, and four other celebrated, eternally busy Manhattan chefs to sit down for three hours? Put them in the company of friends and culinary idols, and ply them with lager and a nonstop banquet of spicy noodles, roasted pork, and deep-fried soft-shell crab.
And that’s exactly what we did. T+L invited six famous chefs to dinner and set them loose on their favorite subject: the best places to eat and drink after hours. Not only did they turn us on to amazing late-night hot spots, but we learned some interesting nuggets about them. Who knew that Daniel Boulud enjoys chicken wings (at least the ones from Pho Kim Long II in Las Vegas) or that David Chang likes Tokyo’s Toriyoshi, a (gasp!) chain restaurant?
The setting for our rowdy bacchanal? Great New York Noodletown, an institution in Manhattan’s Chinatown that’s long been a magnet for hungry late-night revelers. At the table: David Chang, of New York’s cultishly popular Momofuku restaurants (the much-anticipated Momofuku cookbook is in bookstores now); Anthony Bourdain, host of the Travel Channel’s hit series No Reservations; Daniel Boulud, the ebullient French chef whose four-star restaurant, Daniel, has held fickle New Yorkers’ attention for nearly two decades; Marco Canora, of Hearth and Terroir wine bar in Manhattan’s East Village (his new Italian cookbook, Salt to Taste, is a must-read); Akhtar Nawab, one of the acclaimed new guard, formerly of Craft and the boundary-pushing Elettaria; and Eric Ripert, chef and co-owner of Michelin-starred fish mecca Le Bernardin and host of the new PBS show Avec Eric.
After the third round of Tsingtao beers (by now they were arriving by the six-pack), the discussion veered to the subject of the perfect hamburger—something everyone in this meat-crazed town has an opinion about. With his characteristic ... er, restraint, Bourdain called Minetta Tavern’s Black Label burger “the best f***ing burger of my life. The meat’s incredible. It’s some sort of combo of dry-aged rib eye, skirt steak, and brisket, and of course, they’ve got some farm in Kentucky or something.”
Chang, meanwhile, greeted a heaping plate of ginger scallion noodles with a lusty nod of recognition: “This is my favorite dish at Noodletown.” (No doubt—Chang admits in his cookbook to serving an “homage to/out-and-out rip-off” of it at Momofuku Noodle Bar.)
And where does Ripert go to unwind? The Frenchman copped to getting a weekly (at least) fix at Balthazar, the ever-popular SoHo brasserie. “I’m obsessed with the place. For breakfast, lunch, dinner, anything. My family won’t even go with me anymore! I order steak tartare, clams, oysters. I love the energy, the food is very consistent, the service is great, and they have good, cheap Bordeaux.” Ripert also likes the food at Miami’s T-Mex Tacos, which is perfect “after you’ve been out drinking.”
As the meal wound down, the chefs lamented that the younger generation can’t seem to keep up with their late-night antics. Polishing off his beer straight from the bottle, Daniel Boulud, whose television series After Hours pulls back the curtain on the chef’s raucous late-night parties, joked, “These days, they’re taking pictures everywhere. I’ve got to tone it down before I get arrested!”
Read on for a complete roundup of these chefs’ favorite haunts—from New Orleans to Shanghai—and some behind-the-scenes photos of our exclusive dinner.
Meet the chefs:
Daniel Boulud is the chef and owner of Daniel, Bar Boulud, Café Boulud, DB Bistro Moderne, and DBGB Kitchen & Bar in New York; Daniel Boulud Brasserie in Las Vegas; Café Boulud in Palm Beach; Maison Boulud in Beijing; and DB Bistro Moderne and Lumière in Vancouver. He is also the host of late-night dining show After Hours.
Anthony Bourdain is the peripatetic host of the Travel Channel’s No Reservations. Bourdain is shooting the show’s sixth season throughout this fall.
Marco Canora is the chef and co-owner of Hearth, Insieme, and Terroir Wine Bar in New York City. His first book is Salt to Taste (Rodale Press; $35).
David Chang’s New York restaurants include Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku Ssam Bar, Momofuku Ko, and Momofuku Bakery & Milk Bar. His first cookbook is Momofuku (Crown Publishing Group; $40).
Akhtar Nawab was most recently the chef and co-owner of Elettaria restaurant, in New York’s Greenwich Village.
Eric Ripert is the chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin in New York City. He is also the author of three cookbooks. His first TV series is Avec Eric, on PBS.