This season, Avenue is celebrating all things French. In this special series, we’re interviewing prominent French and Francophone New Yorkers, to speak on what they love about their adopted city.
New York’s restaurant scene is notoriously competitive, but Laëtitia Rouabah, the executive chef at Benoit — the American flagship of chef and restaurateur Alain Ducasse — isn’t one to back down from a challenge.
The city is “always moving, always new restaurants, always new things coming out,” she says. “If you’re a restaurant like Benoit, you need to be creative more and more, and always finding the new thing that will make a difference. Why will our guests want to come to Benoit? Now we are doing this, and next month we are doing another thing.”
When the city slowed during lockdown, Benoit was obliged to focus on delivery, and the menu was adjusted to only feature its classic and most popular dishes.
Rouabah has spent much of her career working under Ducasse. She has held top positions at several of his French restaurants, and even helped open his eatery at The Dorchester, in London, before moving to New York in 2016.
She has since been bowled over by the city’s diversity. Not just in its citizens (“there are many people mixed all together, it’s perfect”) and its culinary scene (“there is a restaurant every two meters”), but also by its geography.
“New York is a huge city,” she says. “You can go to the sea, and the day after can go to the snow. Everything is really, really close.”