Where do you eat best in France? In Brittany, with fresh fish from the Atlantic? On the Riviera, with colorful vegetables? Or in the southwest, the home of truffles and goose liver, of Bordeaux and Armagnac, where potatoes are pan-fried in goose-fat?
Many French prefer the latter, when it comes to serious, no frills food. They might someday build a statue for Alain Dutournier in the middle of Place Vendôme in Paris, next to his restaurant.
Dutournier is the chef who has found a way to transform pleasant dishes from the Southwest into Haute Cuisine. Born in 1949 in the small village of Cagnotte (population: 600), his first souvenir is the smell from mother’s and grandmother’s stove – both kept a small “Auberge”. After moving to Paris, he opened the beautiful bistro “Au trou gascon” and served rural dishes from his home-region: His Cassoulet and his garbure, a rustic soup, were well-liked by the sometimes snobby Parisians.
Soon the little restaurant was too small for his talent and he opened “Le Carré de Feuillants”, designed by Alberto Bali near Place Vendôme. He developped a passion for rugby. Most foreign teams end up at his place on big match days and might fest on chestnut soup with pheasant – a dish so delicious that many would consider it a sin. Over the years, the carefully revamped recipes from grandma’s cookbook, the grilled wood pigeon, the steak, the lamb from the Pyrenees, found many fans under Parisian Gourmets. Who wouldn’t want to sink his fork in “Ceps mushrooms marinated, pan fried and in a warm pate”, “well bred farm quail from the Béarn region in hazelnut crust, served with asparagus and potatoes and foie gras cake or Guinea fowl cooked in “Cocotte” with chanterelles and vegetables?
Le Carré des Feuillants has one of the most impressive winecellars of Paris; as a matter of fact, Alain Dutournier is probobly the best connaisseur of wine and spirits among chefs. Others talk about “terroir”, the typical French word that’s a mix of home and tradition. He lives it. Alain Dutournier offers “food for heart and soul”, he knows that cooking without excellent products can be as treacherous as Isadora Duncan’s scarf.
Trou Gascon is now run by his wife, and the Dutourniers continue to serve Duck confit and Cassoulet. His wineshop “Caves de Marly” offers a large selection of wines and spirits. And his third restaurant “Pinxo” is a casual Tapas-place. During Paris Cookbook Fair, Alain Dutournier will intervene on the International bar to present the book Le Pacharenc du Vic-Bilh with Marie-Claire Fondanaux.