Chef Aurélien Dufour is based in New York and delights our taste buds with his finest handmade pâtés, sausages and amazing meats. As always when we are talking about French gastronomy, there are behind it, strong skills, passing know-how from one generation to the next and paying attention to detail and the quality of the products. That makes really a difference! Aurélien gave us some keys to better understand the fine charcuterie, his work and even the man behind this great professional creating his own path, still on-going...
French Wink: How do you start to make charcuterie (deli meats)?
Aurélien Dufour: I grew up in Germany but was born in Bordeaux, France. When my parents moved back to France, I was 15 years old and I had trouble adjusting to French school. My father always cooked at home which inspired me to choose that path. I enrolled in a cooking school and then moved on to the charcuterie/catering field. I did an apprenticeship in Arcachon and worked in Bordeaux for a few years before moving to Paris to work with Mr. Gerard Berranger, a charcutier Meilleur Ouvrier de France (a Best Craftsman of France for charcuterie), whom I call my mentor. I learned so much from him and he always supported me in my young career when I was doing charcutier-traiteur competitions. Then the opportunity to move to New York came to me and I could not miss that chance. This is how I represented well-known Parisian Charcutier Gilles Verot in New-York, under Chef Daniel Boulud’s wing. I was in charge of the whole charcuterie program for Bar Boulud, DBGB Kitchen & Bar (now closed), and all other Boulud’s restaurants. After 6 years working for Chef Daniel, I decided to open my own business and this is how Dufour Gourmet started.
What are the specificities of French charcuterie?
To me, French charcuterie is artisanally made with the French know-how that is passed on from generation to generation. There are a lot of ways to make charcuterie which creates a large variety of products like pate/terrine, sausage, cooked ham, cured and smoked meats, etc.
Many are based on tradition from each region like Andouille de Guémené, jambon de Bayonne, Morteau sausage, and so forth… and I love the fact that we can find the most basic product like pate de campagne and chipolata sausage to more refined and luxurious items like foie gras, galantine and pate en croute. There is a huge respect to tradition but also it is wide open to creativity.
Who is your role model in your profession?
I would say that Mr. Gerard Berranger, charcutier MOF, is the one who had the most influence in my career. He helped me understand the craft and taught me many secrets that Chefs usually keep to themselves. I am very passionate about my job and when working for him, he was always pushing me to go further. I did many charcuterie-traiteur competitions and he was supporting me when training and always giving me a lot of good advice.
What is your personal vision of your work?
My goal is to create the best artisanal charcuterie in the USA. I put a lot of passion into my craft and I love making classic products like pate de campagne and pate en croute, but I also find inspiration to create new products that are more “modern” like the duck and fig terrine and the chicken chipotle sausage. I have learned to respect the ingredients and the product itself and I make sure each item is handcrafted with love!
What is the difference between “pâté” and “terrine” ?
Good question! There are a lot of different answers to this. Some will say that originally terrines were cooked in claypots (which are earthenware containers, the French word "terre" gave the name to terrines) and pate were cooked with a dough around it like pate en croute (to preserve the meat when there was no refrigerator at the time). Others will say that terrines are more luxurious than pate as it is made with more expensive kind of meat like game meats, duck...
How are you creating your pates?
There are some classic pates that we make all year long, but we also make seasonal products depending on the time of the year. For example, during Fall and Winter when the game meat is available, I love to create new pate like wild boar head cheese, squab ballotine with foie gras, guinea hen terrine with chestnuts. In the summer, I like to do light and crisp rillettes with pork shank, red peppers, zucchinis, olives. The seasons and fresh ingredients are what will inspire me to create and revisit classics.
What makes a great pate?
To make a great pate, you need to understand the right way to grind it (fine or coarse), the right balance of lean meat and fat to use and the right seasoning and accompaniment like fruits and vegetables. Also, the way we source our meat and ingredients. We work with small farms and make sure to have high quality products. For example, we still use natural casing which you do not see in supermarkets that use collagen casing. The pate in a grocery store is usually made in big batches by industrial companies.
At Dufour Gourmet, we make small batches that are handcrafted the artisanal way. For instance, we still cover each pate with caul fat, which is something industrials won’t do as the recipe needs to be simpler and be made faster. All of our charcuterie are natural, we don’t add any preservatives or colorings.
Where are your favorite places to find the great meat, your raw material in the USA?
I mostly work with local farms around New York or Pennsylvania states. The meat I receive needs to be fresh, never sous-vide as it is hard to track its freshness, and we need to know how the animals were raised and slaughtered. I have visited most of our partners and we agreed on a certain quality, we share the same values.
Are you adjusting with the American taste?
I did not notice a big difference. The only product I had to change a bit is the pate de campagne. In France, it has more chicken livers but here the taste was a bit too strong for the American palate so we make it with less livers. I take this into consideration when I create new products.
For the last few years, I have seen more demands for chicken base items which pushed me to create more chicken sausages like the chicken provencal with roasted onions and red peppers which is one of our best sellers.
Do you think the customers expectations have changed over the years? It seems we do not eat the same way than before...
I have been in New York City for almost 10 years now and I have noticed some changes. I think nowadays customers are more aware of what they eat, they need to know where it comes from and how it is made. Also, many are now watching their diet thus reducing their meat and fish consumption and some even go vegan. I believe it is better to eat high quality protein at a smaller pace.
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