DANIEL DE LA FALAISE
With Paris’s Ritz hotel as his playground, private chef Daniel de la Falaise—yes, that de la Falaise—applies the same thoughtful simplicity to his cooking as he does to his well-inherited personal style. Photographs by Raphael Lugassy. Directed by Robert Rabensteiner.
For private chef Daniel de la Falaise, the importance of cultivating food sown from the land was instilled at a young age. “My sister and I were put to work in the garden,” says de la Falaise, who spent much of his childhood surrounded by heather moorland on a sheep farm in rural Wales. “Our parents would let us plant extra rows of vegetables, which we grazed like Beatrix Potter rabbits.”
A food purist in his own right, de la Falaise chalks up much of his “sensual” approach in the kitchen to his upbringing, part of which he spent in both the English and French countryside. “My parents raised my sister and me in tune with the seasons and cycles of nature, [which] equipped us with a solid reference of what raw ingredients truly are and taste like straight from the ground,” he says.
It doesn’t hurt either that the 42-year-old is something of culinary royalty—his socialite grandmother Maxime de la Falaise was a cookbook author and food writer for American Vogue. Family also played a role in one of his first posts, as a risotto chef in his great-uncle Mark Birley’s restaurant, Harry’s Bar, in London.
It was there that de la Falaise served some of his most memorable clients. “At Harry’s Bar years ago, Spartacus and James Bond [Kirk Douglas and Sean Connery] came in early one autumn evening and ordered a white truffle risotto for two!” recalls de la Falaise. “The beauty of food is that the vitality of produce can transcend social context: A peasant, a prince, a postman and a movie star can break bread together at table, enjoying the first asparagus and tarragon of the season, and raise a glass to the month of April as equals.”
And in the years since becoming a private chef, de la Falaise has only broadened his rolodex of celebrity clientele. Just last summer, he cooked for the 300-some guests at supermodel Kate Moss and Kills guitarist Jamie Hince’s wedding in the Cotswolds.
But catering for fashion royalty was by no means de la Falaise’s only brush with the industry. A former model himself, and the nephew of the late Yves Saint Laurent muse Loulou de la Falaise, his approach to dressing is markedly similar to his pared-down method of cooking. “I am very fond of hats and waistcoats,” he says. “I wear a lot of Bugatti Blue cotton French work clothes.” De la Falaise’s on-duty essentials, however, are slightly more menacing: “A knife is vital. It is the extension of the hand steered by the mind’s eye.”
Photographed here amid his cherished knives and hats, de la Falaise feels at home in Paris’s Ritz hotel, where he often settles when coming into the city from his house in southwestern France. “I have great affection for the Paris Ritz and those gilded revolving doors. I have met magical people there and always have a lot of fun,” he says, noting Colin Field of the hotel’s Hemingway Bar as a “world-class cocktail genius.”
And when he’s not sitting at the bar at Hemingway’s or weaving through outdoor markets in the French countryside, he’s busy working on his line of herb-infused olive oils and rice vinegars, Le Garde-Manger de la Falaise. The 2012 selection, which consists of oils, vinegars, honeys, saffron and caviar, launches Wednesday alongside www.danieldelafalaise.fr. “The challenge of the kitchen is to combine texture, flavor and taste with imagination,” says de la Falaise of his cooking philosophy. Sounds like a recipe for success. —Charlotte Steinway