Renowned NYC chef David Bouley dead from a heart attack at age 70

 February 15, 2024

Restauranteurs and the culinary world are in mourning after hearing of the death of a famous award-winning and well-regarded chef in New York City.

David Bouley, who blended French cuisine with a dash of Japanese technique to create the New American style of fine dining, passed away on Monday at the age of 70, The New York Times reported.

His death was confirmed by his wife, Nicole Bartelme, who revealed that Bouley succumbed to a heart attack at their home in Kent, Connecticut.

Created and inspired new culinary styles and a generation of top chefs

Bouley was born in 1953 in Storr, Connecticut, to parents who were the children of immigrants from France, and spent much of his childhood at his maternal grandparents' farm in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, where his love of cooking with fresh ingredients first began, according to The Times.

After graduating from the University of Connecticut in Storr, he spent time studying the culinary arts at the prestigious Sorbonne in Paris, France, and further honed his craft under other famous French chefs before returning to the United States, specifically New York City, in the 1980s.

It was in Manhattan's TriBeCa neighborhood that he launched what would become an influential and legendary career as a top chef, according to Eater New York, initially at Montrachet, then later with the first of several eponymously named Bouley restaurants in different locations, each with a slightly different theme, over several decades.

Within the last decade or so, Bouley began experimenting with certain Japanese styles of cooking that he infused into his own style, and more recently shifted his focus toward making health and nutrition a highlight of his creations in the kitchen.

Throughout his career, per Eater, Bouley also served as a sort of inspiration and mentor for numerous other younger chefs who trained under him in his restaurants and then went on to open up fine dining establishments of their own.

Awards and honors

The Associated Press reported that several of Bouley's restaurants were well-reviewed and a few were even awarded coveted Michelin stars. The chef himself was also twice honored by the James Beard Foundation with the title of Outstanding Chef, in 1995 and 2000, and his Bouley restaurant earned the Outstanding Restaurant award in 1991.

The Times noted that Bouley, in 2015, was the first American to be honored as a culinary ambassador of Japan, and in 2022, the French culture ministry honored him with the title of "chevalier" in recognition of his "creative and visionary contributions to the French culinary arts.

Per the AP, Bouley was widely regarded as "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."

Helped keep first responders fed in the aftermath of 9/11

One particularly worthy highlight of Bouley's culinary career, per The Times, was his reaction to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, after which he turned his self-named bakery located near Ground Zero into a base camp for first responders.

Backed by a $5.8 million contract with the Red Cross and a huge team of employees and volunteers, he cooked and served tens of thousands of meals with fresh ingredients every day to help feed construction and rescue workers.

The Times noted that Bouley is survived by his wife, Nicole Bartelme, who is an artist and the founder of the TriBeCa Film Festival, along with five siblings and 14 nieces and nephews, though no children of his own.

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