(CNN) — To the world, Daniel Boulud is a renowned culinary master with 14 restaurants worldwide, six James Beard Awards and the author of 9 books. But to his "French Connection" colleagues Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Eric Ripert and Jacques Torres, he is simply "papa." Growing up on a farm outside of Lyon, France, Boulud began honing his culinary chops at just 14 years old under the tutelage of world class French chefs. A prodigy in his own right, he was only 17 when he became a finalist for Best Culinary Apprentice in France.
Coming from two- and three-starred Michelin restaurants of France, Boulud felt a sense of responsibility to become an ambassador of French nouvelle cuisine. The first of his counterparts to arrive to the U.S. in the early '80s, he became the Executive Chef at Le Cirque and earned his first James Beard Award in 1992. One year later, he cemented his career by opening, Daniel, a two-Michelin-starred restaurant that would become the flagship of his culinary empire.