When Michel Richard introduces his restaurant brand at the New York Palace hotel next year, it will be a return engagement for the French chef, who got his first taste of the Big Apple in 1974. That’s when the acclaimed Gaston Lenotre hired him to be his pastry chef at Chateau France on E. 59th St.
Richard left after seventh months. The restaurant and pastry shop closed soon thereafter. Lenotre designs were ahead of their time, explains Richard, who was told at his departure that “when you leave New York, you leave” the profession.
Thirty eight years later, says the man who dazzled diners with his beautiful food at Citrus in Los Angeles and later Citronelle in Washington, “I did alright.” (Citrus closed in 2001. Citronelle is dark while the restaurant and hotel it’s housed in are renovated following water damage.)
At the Palace, Richard will be responsible for opening a formal restaurant with a tasting menu (currently occupied by Gilt), a casual bistro nearby and a bakery with grab-and-go sandwiches in the lobby. The difference between the yet-to-be-named dining rooms in the landmark hotel will be similar to those between Citronelle and Central (which made its way, with three stars, onto the Fall Dining Guide) in Washington, says Richard. The bakery will enjoy a street presence on E. 51st St.
The multiple culinary additions are part of the 32-year-old hotel’s $120 million renovation, which begins in January. David Chase, the general manager of the Palace, says he talked to a dozen contenders before settling on Richard, who he says is “unique in his ability to deliver.”
While Richard, 64, plans to spend time in New York supervising his latest project, he intends to hire a local chef for the future venue. “I want to stay in D.C.,” he says. Plus, “My wife would never move to New York.”
Besides, he has Citronelle to reopen — right? Oui, Richard says, in “May or June” and in its original Georgetown location, the Latham hotel.