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Chef Bio: Ariane Daguin

Chef Bio: Ariane Daguin

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If you have ever longed for the luxurious textures and flavors of pâté de foie gras, the inimitable aromas of truffles, or searched for duck breasts at the grocery store, you can thank Ariane Daguin, founder and CEO of D’Artagnan, for putting these gourmet foods on the shelves at Safeway, Giant, Dean & DeLuca, and hundreds of other stores.

Like Julia Child, Daguin changed the culinary landscape in America with D’Artagnan, her ground-breaking gourmet food products company founded in 1985. When she started, D’Artagnan was the first purveyor of game and foie gras in the country, and for decades her company held the distinction of being the only company selling these rare products. D’Artagnan’s leadership put the company at the forefront of a sea change in American attitudes towards food quality, sustainability, food chain vulnerability, and alarm concerning the practices of large industrial animal farming operations.

A Culinary Pace Setter
Daguin is a visionary entrepreneur with the heart and soul of a French chef. Raised on fine cuisine and regional specialties that are gastronomic symbols of her birthplace in Gascony in southwest France, she has foie gras in her veins. Preceded by generations of family that were Michelin-starred chefs, Ariane instinctively understood the importance of using only the finest cooking ingredients from the time she was a child in her family’s kitchen. The culinary integrity instilled in her by her father and grandfather was, and continues to be, the driving force behind her steadfast dedication to quality and insistence on selling organic, hormone and antibiotic-free products, and humanely raised meats.

An Accidental Vanguard
What started by accident when Daguin took a part-time job working for a pâté producer in upstate New York, was the inspiration for D’Artagnan’s founding in 1985. She slowly grew the fledgling business into a successful company just as Americans’ palates were becoming more sophisticated and their demand for luxury foods increased. In addition, there was an up swell of concern about the quality of animal feed, their quality of life, and more humane slaughtering in abattoir.

The Growth of Farm-to-Table
By the 1990s, consumers were insisting on buying humanely produced gourmet products – D’Artagnan’s distinct approach – and their growing need for more suppliers reached critical mass. The nexus of these simpatico trends caused the company to expand significantly and spurred the growth of regional cottage industries of artisanal producers in the Midwest, up and down the East Coast, and the Hudson Valley in upstate New York.

As Daguin developed alliances with suppliers, collaborated with them on their husbandry, placed special orders for custom produced items, and encouraged their commitment to more holistic foods, she played a significant role in the growth of the farm-to-table national movement. When describing the process she said, “Over thirty years we have developed a model for us. On one side, the sourcing side, is to create groups of farmers that adhere to our philosophy and specifications for all natural, no hormones or antibiotics, humanely raised, organic, and free range.” Her system has worked splendidly, is scalable, and today, D’Artagnan is the nation’s leading purveyor of organic poultry, game, foie gras, pâtés, sausages, smoked delicacies, and wild mushrooms. With Ariane Daguin at the helm, D’Artagnan continues to set high industry standards for quality and safety.

Wisdom and Charm are Key Ingredients in Success
It’s rare in the business world to find a hugely successful entrepreneur with the charm of a French host, but Daguin has a disarming ability to make you feel at ease, as if you’ve been friends for a long time. Nevertheless, her commanding presence never lets you forget she is an expert in her field. Ariane Daguin has nurtured her company into a financial juggernaut valued at $96 million dollars. Her unique formula for business success has placed her at the pinnacle of the culinary world, and still she is steadfast about her commitment to community and the role of women in food.

She is a member of The Daily Meal Council, “an assembly of respected chefs, restaurateurs, writers, purveyors, food historians, and others who play key roles in the food world. In addition, Daguin is founding president of Les Nouvelles Mères Cuisinières, “an international association of prestigious women chefs;” is involved in The American Institute of Wine & Food and Women Chefs and Restaurateurs; and is on the board of City Harvest, an anti-hunger non-profit in New York City. Her honors and accolades include:

· Awarded the French Legion d’Honneur in 2006

· Received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from Bon Appétit Magazine in 2005

· Recognized in 1994 by The James Beard Foundation, “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America”

The future of D’Artagnan is secure and Daguin’s passion for nothing but the best quality is at the core of her philosophy. As she firmly states, “No matter what, we will not compromise. There is a reason we didn’t go into cheese, and fish, and groceries, and stuff like that. We cannot do everything right. We are proud of what we are doing and we hope to do it to the best of our ability.”

The Most Influential Cookbook Author You’ve Never Heard Of

Julia Child considered her “one of the few food writers whose recipes I trust.” Craig Claiborne called her “one of the finest and most influential food writers in this country…one of the leading lights in contemporary gastronomy.”

She has published 8 cookbooks, all painstakingly researched, meticulously written, and known for being absolutely authentic. From France and Morocco, to Syria and Turkey, she traveled, studied traditions and regional ingredients, and brought them home for us.

She introduced Americans to new flavors like Aleppo peppers and Lacinto kale from Italy, which have become a part of the food landscape we take for granted today.

Paula Wolfert did for Mediterranean food what Julia Child did for French cuisine in America. She was ahead of her time, preaching whole grains and healthy greens, slow cooking, whole animal cooking, authentic regional ingredients, preserving and more. And yet …

“Paula Wolfert may be the most influential cookbook author you’ve never heard of,” says Emily Kaiser Thelin, author of the new culinary biography Unforgettable: The Bold Flavors of Paula Wolfert’s Renegade Life.

Free Virtual Cooking Class Cooking Masterclass with Ariane Daguin, Founder and CEO of D’Artagnan

Just in time for Mother’s Day, Ariane Daguin, native of southwest France, hosts an interactive cooking masterclass from her home kitchen featuring one of her favorite recipes: magret duck breast with apples and sautéed hen of the woods mushrooms.

A trained chef from a legendary French culinary family, Ariane will share valuable tips that will allow you to impress your family and friends with this typical recipe from the south of France.

Daguin will be joined by Adam Gopnik, journalist at The New Yorker.

In English
Duration 45 minutes

Magret duck breast with apples and hen of the woods mushrooms

Ingredients (serves two)

2 magret duck breasts (or any duck breast)
1 tub duck demi glace (or ½ cup chicken broth)
1.5 oz truffle butter (optional)
1 lb hen of the woods (or any type of mushroom)
3 garlic cloves
1 small bunch of parsley
2 green apples, such as Granny Smiths
Cider vinegar
Salt, pepper, piment d’Espelette, sugar

2 heavy sauté pans
1 small saucepan
1 slicing knife
1 metal tong or spatula
1 spoon


  1. Score the skin side of the duck breasts avoiding the flesh below.
    Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Put the breasts, skin side down, in a dry pan over low heat and let the fat render slowly, about 6 to 7 minutes. As the fat renders, pour it out in a separate container and reserve.
  3. Meanwhile, in the other pan, sauté the mushrooms, cut into small clusters and seasoned with salt and Espelette pepper, in half truffle butter half reserved duck fat.
  4. Mince garlic and parsley together.
  5. Peel the apple and slice it.
  6. When all the inner fat has rendered and the skin is nice and crisp, flip the duck breasts to the flesh side and bring heat to high. Cook 4 to 5 minutes.
  7. Put the duck breasts on a slicing board, loosely covered with aluminium foil. Let it rest for 4 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, with the remaining small amount of duck fat in the pan, add in all of the apple slices. Season with salt, pepper and a little bit of sugar. When nicely colored (2 to 3 minutes), take out the best looking slices .They will go on top of the duck when plating.
  9. Over the remaining apple slices in the pan, pour 1 tablespoon of duck demi glace, 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of Armagnac or Calvados. Let reduce while crushing the apple pieces left in the sauce (or using a hand blender).
  10. Add parsley/garlic mixture on top of the mushrooms 30 seconds before they have finished cooking.
  11. After the meat has rested, slice the duck breasts on a bias. Top with the reserved apple slices. Cover with sauce and serve with the mushrooms.

Wine suggestions: a Madiran , a Cotes de Saint Mont, or a Cahors

Recognized as the mother of modern French food culture, Ariane Daguin is the founder, owner, and CEO of D’Artagnan, the renowned gourmet food purveyor.

Since 1985, D’Artagnan has introduced new epicurean foods to American cuisine by providing the finest foie gras, duck, poultry, meat, mushrooms, truffles, and charcuteries that follow the strictest animal husbandry and recipe traditions from France. A devoted advocate for natural and sustainable production, Ariane put D’Artagnan at the forefront of the organic movement in America, advocating organic, free-range chicken (years before the USDA allowed the word “organic” on the label), and humanely-raised veal that are served in the best restaurants in the United States. Ariane was awarded the Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur and is an Officier de l’ordre national du Mérite.

Adam Gopnik is an American writer, essayist, journalist, and commentator. He has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1986, writing non-fiction, fiction, memoir and criticism.

He is a three-time winner of the National Magazine Award for Essays and for Criticism and of the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting. In March 2013, Gopnik was awarded the medal of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Republic. Gopnik’s newest book, A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism, will be released in Spring 2019.

Duck, Duck, Foe

The process known as gavage is hard to describe in a way that doesn't sound unpleasant, though what I observed at Hudson Valley Foie Gras in July did not seem to unduly distress the birds. Three times a day, a worker enters the in-barn but open-air pens holding about 10 ducks each, checks every duck's gullet to make sure it's fully digested its last feed, inserts a thin rubber tube down the duck's throat, and dispenses liquid feed. Then the tube is removed and it's on to the next duck. The feeding takes about five seconds per bird.

Animal-rights activists and foie gras foes call this process torturous. Foie gras producers, and some outside observers, however, argue that duck physiology is made for this unlike humans, the birds have thick esophagi and livers that enlarge without showing signs of disease. "This has become an issue that people get angry over because it's an easy target," says Michaela DeSoucey, a North Carolina State associate professor and the author of Contested Tastes: Foie Gras and the Politics of Food. "People are nuts--on both sides."

Many foie gras bans have been proposed around the country. The biggest so far was in California: In 2004, state law­makers passed a ban that went into effect in 2012, which has since ping-ponged through the appeals courts. (Current status: Upheld.) In 2006, Chicago aldermen passed a short-lived, much-mocked ban, which Mayor Richard M. Daley called "the silliest law that they've ever passed." (It was repealed in 2008.) The bill New York City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera introduced in January would ban the sale of foie gras in the city by restaurants and vendors--which would affect businesses outside of the city, too. At presstime, the bill hadn't been voted on, and producers were in limbo. "For us," Daguin sighs, "it's a big cloud over our heads."

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About Ariane

Ariane Daguin was born into a world of great food in the Southwest of France, into a line of seven chefs. Her father, Chef André Daguin, is famous throughout France for his artistry with foie gras and other Gascon specialties. Ariane herself was expert at deboning ducks, rendering duck fat, preparing terrines and cooking game birds by the time she was ten. She was immersed in a world some would describe as gourmet, but in the Southwest of France food, wine and a healthy enjoyment of the two are just a way of life.

So a career in food might have seemed natural, but Ariane decided to pursue an academic degree at Columbia University. While working part-time for a New York pâté producer, Ariane was in the right place when the opportunity to market the first domestically produced foie gras presented itself. She and a co-worker pooled their financial resources and love of food to launch D’Artagnan in 1985 as the only purveyor of game and foie gras in the U.S. at the time. Devoted advocates for natural, sustainable and humane production, Ariane and D’Artagnan have been at the forefront of the organic movement in America, pioneering organic, free-range chicken (years before the FDA allowed the word “organic” on the label), and humanely-raised veal, heritage breed pigs, and always small, family-owned and operated farms.

Anthony Bourdain, who worked in the kitchens of New York City for years before rising to fame as a TV personality remembers what the culinary scene looked like before D’Artagnan: “Ariane is a seminal figure in America’s food and restaurant revolution. She began D’Artagnan in 1985 when French chefs were wondering why they couldn’t get the kind of food here that they had back home. I remember the way things were before her — ducks were skinny, frozen, flavorless, gray. But thanks to D’Artagnan, along with foie gras, Americans got all kinds of things. She became a one-woman supply train for every French chef in New York, and consequently any American chef with aspirations to be among the best. And she did all this at the exact moment when American chefs were ready to take off.”

Ariane helped the rise of the American restaurant, the beginning of the farm-to-table movement and the increased awareness of where our food comes from. She has always been a staunch supporter of the American farmer, seeking out small-scale farms with humane and sustainable practices to supply D’Artagnan. In 2005 after two decades of collaboration, Ariane acquired her partner’s share of the company to become sole owner of the company they built together. In 2010, Ariane and D’Artagnan celebrated 25 years of doing business, with a week of food-related events and a great big party.

Over the years, Ariane has become a much-loved personality in the culinary community, inspiring the next generation and sharing her knowledge of and passion for food with everyone she meets. In addition to running D’Artagnan, developing new products and researching innovative and ecologically responsible methods of production, Ariane is founding president of Les Nouvelles Mères Cuisinières, an international association of prestigious women chefs, and she is on the board of City Harvest. Recognized in 1994 by The James Beard Foundation “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America,” Ariane is now a member of the Awards Committee. In 2005, Ariane received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from Bon Appetit magazine, and in September 2006, was awarded the French Legion d’Honneur. She lives in New York City and raised her daughter Alix while building D’Artagnan. Alix, too, wants to use her education to do something outside the food community. Somehow it seems there’s another good story there.

A New York Adventure

When Ariane left to attend college in New York City she thought the world of food and swashbuckling musketeers was behind her. Little did she know the adventure that was in store.

While studying and working part-time for a New York pâté producer, Ariane was well-placed to recognize the opportunity when two farmers brought the first domestically raised foie gras through the door. When her employers declined to go into business with the duck farmers, Ariane quit both her job and school and pooled her very limited financial resources with those of a co-worker to start D’Artagnan.

Inspired by her own bravura, she named her new company after d’Artagnan, with a capital D. Her local bartender, who was also an artist, sketched out the first company logo on a cocktail napkin: a dashing duck with a musketeer hat obscuring its head.

Chef Bio: Ariane Daguin - Recipes

Gascon Extravaganza Dinner

Maurice Coscuella
Le Ripa Alta , Plaisance des Gers , France

Ariane Daguin
D'Artagnan , Newark , NJ

Bernard Ramouneda
Le Florida , Castera Verduzan , France

Jean-Pierre Xiradakis
La Tupina , Bordeaux , France

Saturday, February 19, 7:00 pm
Members $100 , guests $125

In the Cooking of South-West France , Paula Wolfert described the food of Gascony as "modern, honest, yet still close to the earth." Although it is a cuisine rich with foie gras and duck fat (a local saying notes that one does not live by how one eats, but by how one digests), prepared well, it can be light, satisfying, and filled with the subtle yet complex flavors that come from using the finest ingredients in the simplest, most tradi-tional ways. For this special Beard House celebration, we are welcoming what would be considered a dream team of Gascon chefs to demonstrate the full breadth of this soulful regional cuisine.

Maurice Coscuella of Le Ripa Alta could probably carry this dinner on his own. Born in the very Gascon town where his restaurant is located, Coscuella completed his training at renowned restaurants around France, including Meurisse in Paris, the Negresco in Nice, and the legendary La Pyramide , where he cooked alongside Paul Bocuse, Jean Troisgros , and Louis Outhier , who had all come to learn from the master Fernand Point . Coscuella opened Le Ripa Alta in 1957, and he has held his Michelin star for more than 20 years. A consultant for the U.N. Plaza Hotel during the 1980s, he is also no stranger to New York.

Before American chefs relied on his daughter for their foie gras and game, they would make pilgrimages to Auch to sample the Gascon cooking of André Daguin at his famed Hôtel de France . Among the most respected chefs in all of France, the now retired Daguin was recently put in command of France's national association of hoteliers and restaurateurs. He is the author of several books, including Foie Gras, Magret, and Other Good Food From Gascony (Random House, co-authored with Anne de Ravel ), and has been decorated with more medals and honors than some French generals.

About that daughter: Ariane Daguin is partly responsible for the culinary revolution that has taken hold in the United States. As co-owner and chef of D'Artagnan , the country's largest distributor of foie gras and fine game, she has helped American chefs acquire some of the best ingredients in the world. Her role has been so vital that a recent issue of New York magazine chose her as one of the most influential New Yorkers of the decade. And to help solidify her place in food history, Daguin has recently authored D'Artagnan's Glorious Game (Little Brown), a compendium of her own recipes and recipes of America's top chefs.

Hélène Darroze 's restaurant heritage goes back several generations. After working for Alain Ducasse , she took over the Francis Darroze restaurant in Gascony, which had been in her family for several generations. Recently she closed that restaurant and opened the eponymous Hélène Darroze in Paris its Gascon menu has already found many fans.

Roger "Zizou" Duffour has retired from his life's work as chef of the Relais de l'Armagnac in Luppe Violles, France, but his impact is still being felt. A mentor to expatriate Gascon chefs like Jean-Louis Palladin and Laurent Manrique , "Zizou" has had his own effect on our restaurant scene. A self-trained chef who took over the Relais from his mother, he is also famous as the region's best hunter of ortolan, woodcock, and wood pigeon.

Bernard Ramouneda took over his grandmother's restaurant in 1968, and he's been interpreting the Gascon cuisine du terroir ever since. Like all of the chefs participating in this special evening, he is a proud member of the Ronde des Mousquetaires, an organization of Gascon chefs whose mission is to spread information about the traditional foods and products of Gascony throughout France and the world.

The final member of this dream team is Jean-Pierre Xiradakis , whose restaurant La Tupina in Bordeaux is a little beyond the boundaries of Gascony, but who nevertheless is known throughout the world for his traditional Southwest cooking. In 1994 Patricia Wells selected La Tupina as the second-best casual dining restaurant in the world for an article in the International Herald Tribune ( Al Forno in Providence, Rhode Island, was number one), and a recent 14-page spread in Saveur didn't argue. Designed to make you feel as though you are eating in a country kitchen, the dining room at La Tupina is laid out with food. The centerpiece is a wood-fired chimney in which most of the cooking is done at searingly high temperatures before your eyes. Xiradakis says the food is supposed to remind you of when you were a child-would that it had been so delicious!

The meal will be paired with a selection of Gascon wines and together, these chefs are sure to prepare a meal that will make you believe you had a childhood in France's Southwest, or at least that you should have. And remember, it's all about how you digest it.

Yes, Steak Tartare Is Safe to Eat

If you're the kind of diner that tends to shy away from restaurants that serve dishes like foie gras and escargot, then you probably have reservations about steak tartare, too.

But don't let the ingredients turn you off. Steak tartare is actually a delightful and surprisingly approachable dish with roots in French, American and even Mongolian cuisines. So, how did a dish requiring such bravery from those who first ate it end up a beacon of fine dining?

What Is Steak Tartare?

First, steak tartare is a combination of raw beef mixed with any variety of accompaniments, but most commonly raw egg yolk, capers, pickles and other seasonings like Worcestershire sauce or Dijon mustard. The meat is cut into small cubes or is finely chopped in a food processor and then the seasonings are added. Steak tartare is usually served with a side of french fries or crostini.

An often-repeated myth is that steak tartare in its simplest form of raw meat can be traced back to 13th-century Mongolia where soldiers under Genghis Khan called Tatars, who were unable to sit down for real meals, consumed raw meat for sustenance.

The 17th-century book "Description d l 'Ukraine," which translates to "A Description of Ukraine," describes how horsemen would "cut the meat with two fingers of thickness" and place it under their saddles to both tenderize and "cleanse the blood of the flesh," thus making it safer to eat.

This myth has been debunked, though. "The Cambridge Medieval History" suggests the Tatars were simply using the raw meat to heal their horses' sores, noting the meat would have been inedible by the end of the day.

Fast forward hundreds of years to 20th-century Paris and the raw chopped beefsteak (called beefsteak a l'americaine) began appearing on menus at grand hotels across the country, cementing it as part of French cuisine — and as a "high class" delicacy to be eaten by the elite.

Only the Best Beef Will Do

"Steak tartare can be made from raw ground (minced) beef or any red meat," says chef Ariane Daguin, CEO of D'Artagnan in Union, New Jersey, and pioneer in the farm-to-table movement. "Bison tartare and venison tartare are very tasty. It is usually served with onions, capers, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and other seasonings — often presented to diners separately — to be added for taste with a raw egg yolk on top of the dish."

Daguin says the type of meat used is typically up to who's making it (tuna tartare is also common), but the best-tasting tartare comes from the tenderloin.

But what about eating raw beef? We all know the risks and how easy it is for bacteria to enter the body, potentially wreaking havoc on the digestive system. So, is eating steak tartare dangerous?

Not necessarily. E. coli is still a very real threat to those who eat raw meat (particularly beef), as the types of harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illness is killed only when beef is cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius). The USDA warns against eating steak tartare, "cannibal sandwiches" and other uncooked beef due to the risk of foodborne illness.

"The USDA recommends you cook all meat," Daguin says. "However, when basic hygienic rules are followed and fresh meat is used, the risk of bacterial infection is low."

McGill University's Office for Science and Society says if you trust the butcher and restaurant to take the meticulous steps ensure the cut of meat used is stored and prepared properly (single prep area just for tartare, special sanitation methods for knives and cutting boards, and serving immediately), eating steak tartare is perfectly OK.

HowStuffWorks may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article.

Want to top your steak tartare off with a nice glass of wine? Ariane Daguin recommends pairing it with a hearty red wine to bring out the flavors of the meat.

Virtual Cooking Masterclass with Ariane Daguin, Founder & CEO of D’Artagnan

Just in time for Mother's Day, Ariane Daguin, native of southwest France, hosts an interactive cooking masterclass from her home kitchen featuring one of her favorite recipes: magret duck breast with apples and sautéed hen of the woods mushrooms

A trained chef from a legendary French culinary family, Ariane will share valuable tips that will allow you to impress your family and friends with this typical recipe from the south of France.

Daguin will be joined by Adam Gopnik, journalist at The New Yorker .

Magret duck breast with apples and sautéed hen of the woods mushrooms

1 tub duck demi glace (or ½ cup chicken broth)

1 lb hen of the woods (or any type of mushroom)

2 green apples, such as Granny Smiths

Salt, pepper, piment d’Espelette, sugar

Free and open to all. A Zoom link will be sent to the RSVP list the day of the event. Participants are invited to ask questions on Zoom and Facebook.

Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to FIAF when you RSVP. Your gift makes programs like these possible, and allows our artists and staff to continue to innovate.


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