For most of the year, it’s easy to think of New York and Los Angeles as roughly on par when it comes to film culture—except one weekend a year, when the Academy Awards come calling and even die-hard New York devotees decamp to Los Angeles for the ceremony. In a measure of equanimity, though, this Sunday for the second consecutive year the Academy will host a simultaneous official celebration for East Coast members and friends at Chef Daniel Boulud’s eponymous, three-Michelin-starred restaurant. “It’s the first two years that the Academy has an official party, and besides L.A., it’s the only one, so it’s nice,” Chef Boulud said at a preview for the event last week. “It’s a great connection. We don’t feel so left out from Hollywood.”
At Daniel, every evening’s dinner service is a finely tuned production; but an Oscar-night viewing party poses particular challenges. “We have to be careful on the presentation,” Chef Boulud explains. “There’s a schedule to follow, because we don’t want to serve when there are certain announcements, and we try to clear between commercials sometimes. And we try to make it practical—so, for example, the desserts are all going to go in the middle of the table with a lazy Susan, so people can serve themselves. So we come in one drop, and we cover the table with things, and then people can, as they watch, serve themselves.”
Along with more standard Daniel fare, this year’s Oscar menu features a “red carpet cocktail” designed by head bartender Arnaud Dissais, as well as nine playful mini-desserts created by executive pastry chef Ghaya Oliveira and intended to riff on the nine nominees for Best Picture. They include a “milk and cookies” concoction, for Nebraska; “il flottante,” for Captain Phillips; and— how could they resist?—a financier in honor of The Wolf of Wall Street. “And there’s going to be a theme around the flowers, the decoration of the room,” Chef Boulud elaborated. And one other key difference, of course: “It’s the only night we have so many TVs in the room, so many screens!”
Chef Boulud himself is no stranger to the screen, as it turns out: he casually mentioned he makes cameos in three films coming out in the next year. “I don’t know if they’re all going to make it to the Oscars,” he reasoned, “But it was fun to be a part of it.”
And as it turns out, there is at least one upside to feeding Academy members who won’t be on camera on Oscar night: they aren’t bashful about eating. Not that that’s often a problem for Chef Boulud. “I serve many actors and actresses throughout the year,” he says, “and they are very good eaters.”
THE 86TH ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS WILL AIR THIS SUNDAY ON ABC. DANIEL IS LOCATED AT 60 E. 65TH ST. IN NEW YORK.