The Controversial Way Daniel Boulud Critiqued His Employees

"Oui, Chef!" These words are obediently echoed by chefs dozens if not hundreds of times a day in kitchens as part of the hierarchical brigade that is the traditional French kitchen. Of the great, living French chefs — Alain Passard, Jacques Pépin, Jean-Georges Vongerichten — Daniel Boulud graces near the top of the list.

Boulud is a decorated, world-famous French chef and restaurateur best known for his two Michelin star restaurant, Daniel, in New York City. He was named the best restaurateur in the world by Les Grandes Tables du Monde, has won six James Beard Awards, and cooked for President Obama (via Eater) — and that only scratches the surface. At the root of Boulud's success is his precision and dedication to his craft.

This means he runs a tight ship, keeping a close eye on his staff at Daniel, even when he isn't in the kitchen. Boulud has screamed at his staff, per The New York Times, but this is comes as little surprise in the high-stakes fine dining world. However, Boulud was also known to use an unconventional and targeted method to critique his cooks from his glass office overlooking the Daniel kitchen.

Boulud's laser focus

Boulud's glass office is situated above the kitchen at Daniel, so when he is not in the kitchen, he can observe from above — like a crow in its nest, as Thrive Global puts it. But Boulud wouldn't just watch; he also used to use a laser pointer to call out his staff's imperfections. "I've done it," Boulud admitted to the New York Daily News in 2016. "That was a long time ago," he added, iterating that this practice only went on for six months.

Presumably, the laser pointer evoked fear in his kitchen staff, whether it was intended or not. At the very least, it showed cooks that Boulud was always watching. There appears to be no explanation as to why the chef stopped the practice. In a 2007 New York Times interview about the accusations of verbal abuse and discrimination made about the restaurateur, Boulud said, "People change with time, and I think I have changed with time. If I burst out it will last 10 seconds, and it is over. But I am fair. I have made an effort in the past few years to keep the kitchen serene."