Belvedere Executive Chef Daniel LeBoon’s Humble Approach to Cooking
Chef Daniel LeBoon knew by age eight what he wanted to be when he grew up. His childhood was spent helping out with the family catering business and watching his dad cook, solidifying his love for the craft. From his beginning in home kitchens in Manheim Township where he was raised, Daniel moved to New York City to start his career at 19 years old — large strides ahead of aspiring chefs of his age — eager and ready to learn.
After working in New York for a year, Daniel headed back to Lancaster where he spent the next few years back and forth between chef jobs and internships, one of which being in Paris, France, where he learned the French style of cuisine that he still incorporates into much of his cooking. From Paris, he moved back to Lancaster, opening Josephine’s Restaurant. After that, Café di Vetro. His latest venture: taking on a role as the executive chef and partner of The Belvedere Inn.
His most recent position could be described as predestined. Daniel had just put his notice in at his current job when he ran into Dean Oberholtzer, owner of The Belvedere Inn, at a bar. “It was actually weird,” Chef LeBoon told us. “We just started talking; I was going to do a catering for him. We were joking around, I guess, and he said, ‘It would be nice to have you as a chef here.’ And I said, ‘Well, you have 8 days to hire me, and now I’m the partner and chef for him.’”
Since 1998, The Belvedere Inn has been one of the most famous restaurants in Lancaster, known for its elegant atmosphere and spin on classic American dishes. The Victorian Italianate style mansion that houses the restaurant was built all the way back in 1869, named after the Italian word belvedere, meaning “beautiful view,” for the roof-top structure overlooking downtown Lancaster seating patrons as they enjoy their meals.
Chef LeBoon doesn’t necessarily want to change The Belvedere, trusting in it’s already elite status. His intentions are set on general improvements, as well as consistency in the cooking — a standard that’s paramount to him. There will be some menu changes, but all the signature items will remain, such as the popular grilled romaine salad. He also plans to incorporate his specialty cooking style, buerre mont—a slow poaching in butter technique typically used for cooking seafood that he learned during his time in France.
Continuing to learn is Chef LeBoon’s top priority and deepest philosophy. In fact, when asked what kind of vegetable he’d be, his answer was the spongy mushroom (as well as a big laugh). “That’s how my mind is.” He wants to make sure the entire staff at The Belvedere Inn are knowledgeable and updated on the culinary scene. “My father always said, ‘The day you’re done learning is the day you’re done.’ You continue to learn with everyone along your journey.”
Chef LeBoon told us that what he looks forward to most in his work day is seeing his guests smiling and happy. After a conversation with him, it’s clear that it really is that simple. He was humble and short-spoken when asked about what sets him apart from other chefs: “I think people write too many things about chefs,” he laughed. “I don’t really feel like I’m set apart. I just let my food speak for what it is.” Even after a lifetime of prestigious titles, internships, and restaurant openings, LeBoon is grounded and modest about his work.
“I just followed in my dad’s footsteps, and my career took off from there. I go to work every day happy, and I’m very passionate about it. If you eat my shrimp, you’ll know what I mean,” he said, speaking about his favorite dish to cook. His shrimp vermonte, done with yuzu kosho, a Japanese lime and chili pepper, and red Argentina shrimp is his personal dish of choice to serve. You can now enjoy this, as well as his other mouth-watering signature dishes such as the jumbo lump gluten free crab cake, at The Belvedere Inn on 402 N Queen St in downtown Lancaster.
By: Lizz Dawson