Paul Denamiel is a restaurant owner that leads a jewel of French cuisine in New York named “Le Rivage.” The name is roughly translated to “The Shore” in English, and it is one of the few successful enterprises that have been there for over 30 years.
Denamiel was born to a family of chefs that owned places like “Le Cafe Du Soir” and “Le Colony,” which facilitated the birth of his zest for food. In his youth, he spent time helping his parents run their establishments where he began learning the basics of French cooking. Led by the powerful yearning for food, Denamiel attended The Culinary Institute of America where he sharpened his knowledge of applicable skills. After completing the program, he spent 12 months in France via an externship. There, he further refined his horizons and became familiar with the latest trends of European-based cuisine that was not generally witnessed on the streets of New York.
Presently, Denamiel’s restaurant is almost a keyword for high-quality, affordable food of French origin. The restaurant possesses excellent low-light romantical atmosphere that is characterized by flowers, candles, wooden decor, and colorful paintings of French scenery. The meals are made from original recipes that have been altered to include the chef’s perspective alongside a long list of wines to choose from. Thanks to the wide-range of expertise from the executive chef/owner, the 100-people capacity of this location often proves to be insufficient to satisfy the demand.
What is one trend in French cuisine that excites you?
As a part of my menu, I like experimenting with various sauces that originate from France. People who visit my restaurant tend to look for something out of their comfort zone. Most customers have never had things like the Béchamel or Hollandaise which are some of the more popular sauces you would find in nearly every restaurant in France. I am also a big fan of meals like Cassoulet that I tend to make in my free time. One of my hobbies is looking for ways to combine cultures and add minor changes to recipes that put the best of all worlds together.
Do you think that French culture has its place in New York?
I like to believe so. Although it may not be as widespread as it is in places like New Orleans, New York is the so-called melting pot of the world. This includes France and all the perks of its culture. For example, the French cinema is a big part of it, but there are other events like concerts, museums, and balls. I mean, you can go to the Met [The Metropolitan Museum of Art] and see some of the best pieces from French creators that you wouldn’t see in the Louvre in Paris.
Do you ever compare the history of France and the United States since you have been a part of both cultures?
I wouldn’t necessarily say I compare them, but I like to look for overlaps. I always enjoy reading about things like the French Revolution, Napoleon and his underpriced sale of Louisiana, World Wars, and so on. I don’t think of myself as an expert on French history so I am curious to learn more whenever I can. The U.S. history, on the other hand, I was exposed to through my schooling, so I find it interesting to see both perspectives.
Is there anyone who shares the intensity of your passion for cooking?
I think my dog was my partner in crime when it comes to food. It could have been the low standards she had, but every time I would need a tasting buddy or someone to critique my latest recipe, Jojo would stare at me with passion in her eyes and a wiggling tail. Unfortunately, she recently passed at the age of 7 from Cancer.
Is there a story behind the name Jojo?
Actually, yes. The name came as a combination of Josephine Bonaparte and Josephine Baker. The first person, Josephine Bonaparte, was the Empress of France towards the end of the 18th century. The second one, Josephine Baker, was a famous dancer and activist. My tasting buddy had to have a name worthy of her title, right?
Is it true that you drive a motorcycle?
I think that anyone who has to endure the infamous New York traffic decided to try the alternatives at some point. I am a fan of motorcycles, and I love driving them, but this enthusiasm essentially originated from necessity. I would often find myself in a rush to get to the restaurant in time to go through all the pre-opening agenda, which requires me to be able to travel faster and avoid miles of non-moving lanes. Of course, this does not work too often as I still put safety before timeliness.