After almost ten years in the United States, the chef from Bordeaux and finalist in the 2015 edition of the Pâté-Croute World Championship, continues to be a success in America. During the Catering Service World Cup to be held at the 2019 Sirha, he will be aiming for first place wearing the colours of the Stars and Stripes.
Two months ago, Aurélien Dufour took over his new kitchens in Queens, New York. The kitchens have been approved by the USDA (US Department of Agriculture), the Holy Grail for anyone wanting to work in the American food sector. This 350m2 space is a dream come true for the boy from Bordeaux who has been dedicated to the art of charcuterie for almost twelve years.
Trained by a MOF in Bordeaux
A far cry from the image of pork butchers armed with big moustaches, the thirty-year-old began his career at the age of 18 in Bordeaux after returning from a spell living in Hamburg with his family. He started off at the Simone-Brandy Centre de formation pour apprentis (training centre for apprentices) and then moved on to the CFA of the Aquitaine Chamber of Trade and Craft Industry. His meeting with a MOF teacher proved decisive: he trained him in all aspects of the trade including catering, charcuterie, cooking and pastry-making and pushed him to sit competitive exams.
Culinary contests and a ticket to New York
On the eve of his 20th birthday, the young man who found it hard to switch from the language of Goethe to that of Molière, became the meilleur jeune espoir de France (Best Young Hopeful in France, MOF competition) and then the meilleur apprenti chef charcutier de France (Best Trainee Chef Charcutier in France) which encouraged him to prepare to take the great tricolour collar test. That was without heeding the call from the sea which came in the form of Gilles Vérot. This well-known catering professional from the place de Paris went into business in New York with Daniel Boulud, originally from the Lyon area and a leader of French gastronomy in the land of Uncle Sam. Their simple aim was to gain recognition for French charcuterie in the USA.
Working alongside Daniel Boulud in New York
Aurélien Dufour worked his way up through the ranks until he was in charge of all sausage, ham and other pâté production for the ten or so restaurants and delicatessens of the Dinex Group (belonging to Daniel Boulud) on the East Coast, notably in Boston and Washington, in addition to the two found in the Big Apple. He received recognition as one of the chefs to watch in StarChefs magazine, a publication renowned for showcasing the true artisans of the catering trade in the United States.
Third place at the 2015 edition of the Pâté-Croute World Championship
2015 saw him compete in the Pâté-Croute World Championship. Having qualified following the North American contest, he finished third on the podium during the fial which was held at Maison Chapoutier in Tain L’Hermitage. The following year, things really took off for the chef when he headed for Great Neck, Long Island, a small strip of land jutting out into the Atlantic about an hour away from NYC. “The time had come after seven years for me to start up on my own to produce my own charcuterie. I had two tables and a shelving unit, I did everything from A to Z, from production to delivery and it all started by word of mouth”, he proudly adds.
Small French charcuterie producer becomes big business in Queens
Success was indeed on the cards in 2017 although the Frenchman was a little restricted. He and his wife Juliette began looking for a new kitchen facility which would open doors to a much greater production capacity to cope with the increasing demand. They invested in a large depot in Long Island City in New York, at the foot of the Queensborough Bridge linking the Queens district to Manhattan. “We created a hot kitchen and two large fridges which required four months to put together, during which time I had to stop production. Financially it was a bit of a gamble but totally necessary to see the project through. Now we can send our products throughout the country.”
A large-scale kitchen but with artisan-based techniques
His customers returned quickly following the break for improvements. Among his clientele he now includes not only restaurant owners, luxury hotels and palaces but also Air France’s First Class and the Madison Square Garden venue. He also caters for the buffet receptions of visiting French politicians. His foie gras and other white sausages with truffles (boudins blancs truffés) are also featured in the catalogues of well-known distributors. In addition to his commis chef and a delivery person, Aurélien is planning on hiring two new members of staff. Everything about his outfit is artisanal. “Even if we have a ton of country-style pâté to make in a week, we do it all by hand. We don’t have a machine to shape and divide the pâté up”, adds the charcutier who hopes to continue promoting French-style meat curing amongst American consumers who are more used to Italian-style charcuterie which is drier.
Turkey burgers for Thanksgiving
To achieve this, Aurélien Dufour decided to make a few changes. “For Thanksgiving for example, we sometimes make turkey burgers. We can also put turkey together with cranberries in a pâté croûte or even work with Duroc pork which comes from an American breed of pig.” The chef relies on his years spent as an apprentice in France to select the very best products for his cured meat creations. Every month, he goes to meet breeders in New York State, far from the city, to keep an eye on how the animals are being reared. These visits remind him of his childhood spent in the countryside near Hamburg where he was surrounded by pigs. “We are trying to maintain the Little House on the Prairie aspect by working with farms where animals are reared outside.”
Representing the USA at the catering professionals’ World Championship
Before launching an e-commerce website in 2019 with the aim of reaching out to the general public, Aurélien Dufour is now training ten hours per week in preparation for the International Catering Cup, the World Cup for catering professionals, taking part during the next Sirha in Lyon. “We have to present a buffet complete with cold starter, a hot fish dish, a hot dish and a dessert. The most difficult thing is finding French products in the USA so that we can practice under real conditions.” It is worth noting however, that he will be competing for the United States with David Malbequi, his assistant and French restaurant owner in from New York and a commis chef who will be named on the day of the contest.
- 600g fresh tuna
- 15cl sweet soy sauce
- 10cl fresh lime juice
- 10cl fresh orange juice
- 10g finely chopped ginger
- 1 small chili pepper cut in half
- ½ mango cut into cubes
- 1 avocado cut into cubes
- 1 red onion, sliced
- A few sprigs of Thai chives
- pinch of black and white sesame seeds
- 1 dash of olive oil
- 1 pinch of fleur de sel (sea salt)
- 1 ground black pepper