Chef David Bouley, Who Died at 70, Built a Culinary Empire in Tribeca

David Bouley in his test kitchen at 88 West Broadway. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib 

Feb. 14, 2024

David Bouley, the renowned chef who over the course of two decades opened, and eventually closed, more than a half-dozen restaurants or other culinary experiences in Tribeca, died of a heart attack at his home in Kent, Conn., on Feb. 12. He was 70.

Bouley, a student of the French nouvelle cuisine movement, first made his mark in the neighborhood in 1985 when he became the chef at Tribeca’s Montrachet. The restaurant soon garnered three stars from The New York Times, helping to launch the neighborhood’s reputation as a fine dining destination. Two years later, he opened his own namesake restaurant at 165 Duane Street. Bouley the restaurant would become the flagship eatery among his many other culinary enterprises in the neighborhood. It remained there until 1996, eventually landing in the Mohawk Building, its final home at 163 Duane. That restaurant closed in 2017.

Over the years, the Bouley culinary empire in Tribeca also included (and this is likely not a complete list): Bouley Bakery and Market on the southwest corner of West Broadway and Duane Street (1999 to 2010); Bouley Studio and Bouley Upstairs on the northwest corner of Duane and West Broadway (Bouley Upstairs closed in 2008); at 30 Hudson Street, first the Austrian-themed eatery Danube (1999 to 2008), then a “French-Italian brasserie” called Secession (until 2011), and the Japanese restaurant Brushstroke, which closed in 2018.  He also operated a test kitchen, which opened in 2005, at 88 West Broadway.

Bouley’s sudden shuttering of his Market on West Broadway in April 2010 stunned its many regular customers, whose daily routines often included multiple trips there for coffee and croissant, a cut of meat or a loaf of bread, or a leisurely buffet meal in the market’s well-appointed dining room.

The chef’s wife, Nicole Bartelme, told the Trib in an email at the time, “He could keep the Bakery Market open, but as a chef who watches each detail of an executed dish, retail takes up too much of his creative time. He takes a hands-on ownership of each item sold as he does each dish he serves in the flagship [restaurant].”

“David is used to keeping a lot of balls in the air,” Bartelme added, “but at this point in his career, he wants to be out of retail and get solely back to cooking.”

Bouley’s interest in naturopathy and “nutrient dense” dishes led in 2011 to Bouley Botanical opening in a space at Church and White Street—not a restaurant but a venue for classes and lectures on nutritional cooking.

Though he moved his next enterprises, Bouley at Home and Bouley Test Kitchen, to the Flatiron District, never to open a business again in Tribeca, many still remember meals they shared at some of his local dining spots. “So sad to hear,” one commenter said on Instagram. “DB touched the lives of so many via his baguettes and moreish morsels that brought joy and maybe even an extra pound or two, but who’s counting! Thank you Chef. RIP

Bouley supported a number of local causes, including Friends of Duane Park. A note from the group, attached with flowers to the bench he had dedicated to the park, read: “David—It has always been an honor to consider you our friend.”

In an email to the Trib, Bartelme, Bouley’s wife of 17 years, called her husband “a man who holistically experienced discovery. Relentless curiosity and questioning was his driving force—to be informed, to share and celebrate.”