Daniel Boulud Is The Best Chef In The World, According To Dale MacKay - Exclusive

When someone who has worked for Gordon Ramsay doesn't pick the bellicose "Hell's Kitchen" host as the best chef in the world, you should probably sit up and take notice. That's the case for Dale MacKay, who was a chef under Ramsay for years before moving on to running a restaurant for Daniel Boulud. It was while he was working for Boulud that he won the inaugural season of "Top Chef: Canada." Since then, he's become a restaurateur in his own right, with five eateries in his hometown of Saskatchewan, Canada. Now, he's competing to win "Top Chef: World All-Stars" against chefs who have experienced "Top Chef" success from around the globe.

MacKay has great things to say about both of his celebrity chef mentors. Of Ramsay, he told us, "Gordon taught me to cook with balls and aggression." But it's Boulud on whom he bestowed the title of the best chef in the world in an exclusive interview with Mashed.

Although Boulud is a revered figure in the fine dining world, he's probably not as familiar to the television-viewing public as Gordon Ramsay is. A native of Lyons, France, he has a substantial culinary empire with restaurants in many different countries. He's the recipient of several James Beard awards, and his namesake restaurant in New York has two Michelin stars. But beyond all the awards recognition, MacKay saw something while he worked under Boulud that made the French chef his pick for number one worldwide.

The key is hospitality

Although cooking in restaurants is a stereotypically aggressive profession, at heart, it's about providing service and making people feel happy and welcome. This is where Daniel Boulud excels, per Dale MacKay: "Daniel was almost like a finishing school where you're learning about hospitality."

MacKay had a story that illustrated Boulud's personal commitment to treating guests right. He recalled, "One of the first times I was ever at an event with him, there was a woman 10 feet away, and she had a canapé and didn't have anywhere to put her napkin. He stopped a conversation, walked all the way over there, and grabbed her napkin from her because he could tell she didn't know what to do with it." Boulud may be one of the most famous chefs on Earth, but he still conducts himself with humility. In MacKay's words, "It's not about you, it's about the guest."

The "Top Chef" champion also described Boulud as "the king of concepts." This can be seen in the wide variety of food businesses the chef puts his name on, from takeout markets to fine dining to bars to humble bistros and everything in between; he even has a couple of Japanese-inspired restaurants. The fact that he can execute such a diverse array of food at a high level is a testament to his skill.

Bravo's "Top Chef" returns for Season 20 with the "World All-Stars" edition Thursdays at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT.