David Waltuck Just Wants to Cook. Five Years After Chanterelle Closed, He’s Back in the Kitchen at Élan.
[Note: This is our monthly sister post to my Kitchen Time Machine series on Eater. Click over there to read part 1 of my interview with David Waltuck, joined by wife and Chanterelle partner Karen. - A.F.]
NEW YORK CITY — Once upon a time, there was a little boy named David. He grew up in the Bronx, on Eastern European home cooking, but had a fascination with French food and restaurants. On the weekends, he would experiment in the kitchen, at first with elemental preparations like mayonnaise, and then with more ambitious projects such as terrines.
This was back in the mid-1970s and that boy grew up to marry his high school sweetheart, Karen, and together the couple, the Waltucks, opened one of the landmark restaurants of its era in the United States: Chanterelle. On Monday, without Karen (but in partnership with former Chanterelle GM George Stinson), David will launch the new restaurant élan, on East 20th Street in Manhattan.
The thing that’s always fascinated me about David (with whom I collaborated on Chanterelle’s cookbook), is that as much as any chef I’ve ever met, all he’s ever really wanted to do was cook, but that’s easier for a little boy in the Bronx as a hobby than it is for a grown professional in New York City, especially these days when real estate costs are driving even the likes of Union Square Cafe to new digs.
But love is a powerful thing, even the love of cooking, and it can drive a man to stay the course until he’s back with his beloved. Like Daniel Day Lewis’ Hawkeye screaming, “No matter what occurs, I WILL FIND YOU!” in Last of the Mohicans, David has always found his way back to cooking, back to a situation that has allowed him to cook his food, even though, most recently, it’s taken years….