Designing Bocuse Bistro: A Modern Approach

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A rendering of the new Bocuse Restaurant was designed by Adam Tihany, and will open in the Winter of 2013. (Photo credit: Tihany Design)

“The dining room will be completely different when it opens but it will be a space Escoffier would be proud of.”
A rendering of the new Bocuse Restaurant was designed by Adam Tihany, and will open in the Winter of 2013. (Photo credit: Tihany Design)

As appearing in La Papillote. Article by Jake Hauss ’13.

Until a few months ago, the gold standard at The Culinary Institute of America was a room described by the New York Times in July as a “fusty, classically inspired, formal French dining room.” The Times’ examination of the venerable Escoffier restaurant was brought on by a drastic transformation currently taking place on the west side of Roth Hall. That article at the beginning of July gave most students, staff, and CIA groupies their first glances at what’s been rumored for years: the Bocuse Restaurant.

Slated to open in 2013, the Institute’s newest restaurant showpiece was designed by the same man who helps some of our most beloved restaurateurs make invaluable impressions on their guests every time the front door opens. Adam Tihany has been a force in the hospitality industry since the beginning of his career. With interior design and architecture credits at some of the world’s most well regarded dining rooms (Daniel, Aureole, Bar Bouchon in LA, La Fonda del Sol, just to name a few) Tihany was tapped by the CIA to take on the college’s most recent makeover. He was named Art Director by the Institute in July and will oversee, among other things, the overall image of the college’s Hyde Park campus.

La Papillote recently got a chance to speak with Mr. Tihany after a lecture he gave to update students on Bocuse Restaurant.

“I don’t think anybody really ever wanted to do something contemporary,” Tihany proclaimed about the restaurants on the Hyde Park campus. “[We] agreed that [we were] looking for a contemporary French brasserie that can be read in many ways.” The overhaul of E-Room was generally regarded as controversial, at best, by students until Tihany’s renderings were released. “My interest was to create a stage for students to actually experience a modern restaurant.”

A “stage” may be the best way to describe the new Bocuse restaurant. Tihany has made it a key point to open up the space. He described the new space as “airy and soft” rather than the less delicate, more masculine and vernacular E-Room. The design team was focused on creating a space that lets student service staff experience what Tihany calls “a different way of moving in a dining room.”

One of Mr. Tihany’s signatures is service stations in the middle of the dining room. That has not been lost on Bocuse. He wants the dining experience to reflect that of restaurants in major cities. “When you are in a contemporary room you tend to behave differently, on edge. That’s sort of the philosophical consideration behind [the design].”

The dining room will be completely different when it opens but it will be a space Escoffier would be proud of. “We wanted to keep it simple and elegant,” Mr. Tihany proudly remarked, “[We] used natural materials like leather, wood, and glass.” He made a point to keep a few very French details as an homage to the new restaurant’s namesake. “The wall sconces are all toques…that was not enough. They are made of porcelain from Limoges.” He took a look at his Italian design associate after he said that and asked if they ever got the porcelain from Limoges. “Well, at least we hope it’s coming from Limoges.”

Mr. Tihany is a classically charming man with enough experience under his belt to exude confidence. He is worldly and focused. He lives in the Hudson Valley himself so these surroundings are familiar. Even though he’s been all over the world and designed restaurants and hotels from New York to South Africa to Singapore, Roth Hall still holds significance in the design of Bocuse Restaurant. “The new facility is rooted in the history of the building and what it was. I don’t think contemporary living and this traditional architecture can’t coexist. The restaurants will evolve. They will evolve in the same way the end product and the students here evolve.” Mr. Tihany is hopeful for the future of the industry and confident that the Institute is still on the cutting edge. “Evolution and progress has its place here. You can’t just stick your head in the sand and say this is all we can do here. [The CIA] is progressive.”

For more information about all CIA restaurants, visit www.ciarestaurants.com.

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