Ariane Daguin introduced the foie gras burger at her former New York City restaurant, D’Artagnan the Rotisserie, and it is the real deal: silky sautéed foie gras, sweet apples, and tart balsamic vinegar make it a decadent and indulgent dish that's worth it every time.
- 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 medium onion, sliced
- 3/4 Cups balsamic vinegar
- 1 package foie gras slices
- 1 brioche bun, sliced
- Arugula, for serving
Calories Per Serving1042
Folate equivalent (total)45µg11%
Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs: Ariane Daguin
Foie gras. Pâté. Offal. These niche food items may be familiar to us today, but in 1985, these products were unknown to many Americans. That is, until Ariane Daguin launched D’Artagnan, an inspired idea that became one of the largest and most trusted specialty meat distributors in the country. In celebration of the company’s 30th anniversary, we recently invited the visionary founder and CEO to ICE as part of our Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs series.
Photo Credit: Boston.com
Born in the Gascony region of France to a family with a seven-generation culinary legacy—including a chef father with 2 Michelin stars to his name—it was clear from early on that Ariane had inherited a passion for the food industry. Yet, despite growing up with this impressive gastronomical heritage, her original career ambition was to become a journalist, a dream she pursued by enrolling as an undergraduate at Columbia University.
During her summers off from school, Ariane worked the retail counter at Les Trois Petits Cochons, which was—and still is—one of New York’s finest French pâté producers. When she suggested to the owners that they should sell their products wholesale to the city’s fine food shops, amazingly, they presented her with the opportunity to develop this concept within their existing business. Meanwhile, at Columbia, Ariane had met George Faison—her future business partner.
Joining Ariane and her friends on weekly restaurant outings, George realized they shared one very special passion: French cuisine. Soon enough, he joined Ariane at Les Trois Petits Cochons while he was finishing his MBA. Working together, the two gained invaluable experience in the industry over the next five years. But when the shop’s owners decided that Ariane’s entrepreneurial ideas—in particular, becoming the sole foie gras distributor for a duck farm in the Catskills—were too risky, the pair knew it was time to branch off on their own.
Photo Credit: First We Feast
The timing couldn’t have been better. At the time, there was no fresh, domestic foie gras available in the country—American chefs were cooking it out of a can. With a specific mission in mind, the two launched D’Artagnan (named after one of the Three Musketeers, a book penned by Alexandre Dumas, with whom Ariane shares her hometown). Draining their savings, the pair leased a truck and a small refrigeration space, and gained an exclusive contract with the Catskills duck farm to sell foie gras. “The first few years were extremely difficult. It was hard to receive cash flow. Banks didn’t want to lend anything since there was no guarantee. At one point, we had $35 in the bank,” said Daguin.
To stay viable, they had to convince the foie gras farmers that they were the right people for the job. Ariane threw everything she had into her work. Knowing that it would be met with hesitation from the public, she invested time in educating clients about the product. And since foie gras was a relatively unfamiliar ingredient for chefs, D’Artagnan kept two days' inventory on hand, to allow for last-minute orders. This, Ariane knew, would give their clients the freedom to be more daring with the specialty ingredient, testing the waters as they gauged their guests’ reactions.
Ariane and her father. Photo Credit: dartagnan.com
In addition, Ariane was taught by her father that a good chef knows how to use the whole animal, so she sought out chefs with a similar perspective. George and Ariane began to develop relationships with these chefs, who provided checks as credit to receive foie gras in the future. Those crucial partnerships allowed the company to get one step ahead. Ariane’s vision for D’Artagnan also began to re-shape the farming practices of her producers. She wanted to be able to market D’Artagnan’s products as fresh, free-range, and organic, but felt she still needed something to set her foie gras apart. Ariane begged her farmers to raise heritage duck breeds. These would take longer to raise—nine months, as opposed to the traditional five—and it took all of Ariane’s powers of persuasion to convince the farmers that this time-consuming change would be a worthwhile investment. At the same time, Ariane was growing her network at the other end of the food chain, tapping into a new generation of ambitious New York City chefs.
Ariane gets a boost from the industry's top chefs. Photo Credit: Food Arts Magazine
Her primary customers were young culinary innovators, such as Patrick Clark of Odeon, David Burke, and Daniel Boulud. Growing her inventory to include game birds and other specialized products, Ariane provided chefs with access to a whole new world of high-quality products, distinguishing D’Artagnan as a unique resource for this ambitious culinary community.
Today, Ariane is one of the most respected women in the food industry. She works with chefs, restaurateurs, and purveyors from across the country—some offering ideas for new product offerings, while others make requests for such rare products as charcuterie, truffles, or mushrooms. D’Artagnan, in turn, has become one of the most successful specialty food companies in the industry, with 172 employees, 35 trucks and 82 million dollars in revenue.
Though she and George parted ways in the early 2000’s, Ariane has since taken D’Artagnan to new heights. The business now has an outpost in Chicago and is about to open a third location in Houston. But despite her ambitions, Ariane also knows her limits—she may be a master of sourcing, but she has no desire to open her own slaughterhouse. Ariane wisely believes the key to her success is that she knows what she does best, and sticks to it with passion, integrity, and honesty.
For more success stories from the industry's top entrepreneurs, click here.
André Daguin Dies at 84 Chef Made Gascony (and a Dish) Famous
His menu, most notably the grilled duck breast, made a region of southwest France a required stop for traveling food lovers.
André Daguin, a chef who helped put Gascony on the culinary map and made grilled duck breast the most popular dish in France, died on Tuesday at his home in the remote town of Auch, where he achieved his renown running the kitchen of his family’s hotel. He was 84 .
His daughter Ariane Daguin, the founder and owner of the American meat and charcuterie company d’Artagnan, said the cause was pancreatic cancer.
Mr. Daguin, the descendant of generations of chefs, hotelkeepers and charcutiers, took over the kitchen of the Hôtel de France in 1959 and almost immediately made a daring decision. Up to that time, breast of duck was a little-regarded ingredient, used primarily in confits — meat simmered and preserved in its own fat.
He decided to grill the breast, or magret, like a steak.
“I called it grilled red meat on the menu, and people bought it and thought it was beef,” he told Molly O’Neill of The New York Times in 1992.
News of the dish reached the wider world when Robert Daley, then a Times foreign correspondent, described the new mystery meat on the front page of the newspaper’s travel section in an article with the headline “A Meaty Whodunit: Grilling of Magret.”
Initially, “Lou Magret aux Braises,” as it appeared on the menu, was served with a béarnaise sauce made with duck fat. But in 1965, Mr. Daguin, an experimenter enthralled with nouvelle cuisine, created a green peppercorn sauce for his duck. The dish became an instant classic, and duck breast became wildly popular. Today, grilled duck breast appears in the top spot in surveys of France’s favorite dishes, just ahead of moules frites and couscous.
Mr. Daguin’s innovations did not stop with duck breast. He skewered chunks of foie gras, another of Gascony’s main products, with sea scallops. He paired foie gras with langoustine, an unheard-of combination. He used liquid nitrogen to make instant ice creams of prune and Armagnac, the local brandy, and of Tarbais beans, another local product normally encountered in cassoulets . His restaurant earned a Michelin star in 1960 and a second star 10 years later, making Auch, population 25,000, a required stop for traveling food lovers.
André Daguin was born in Auch on Sept. 20, 1935. His father, Albert, who had taken over the Hôtel de France in 1926, was, like his father before him, a renowned chef. His mother, Lucienne (Filippi) Daguin, ran the hotel with her four sisters after Albert’s death during World War II.
Although frail at birth, weighing only four pounds, André developed into a star rugby player at the local lycée. Setting his sights on a legal career, he traveled to Scotland for his studies.
After a year, family tradition pulled him back to France, where he enrolled in a two-year course of study at the École Hotelière in Paris, whose lack of regard for his native region, in the southwest, aroused his ire.
“I was taught nothing about foie gras, nothing about confits, nothing about magrets, nothing about carcasses,” he told Mr. Daley of The Times. “I was taught that goose fat is good for nothing and must be thrown away, but this is false it can be used in sauces in place of butter. A good deal of what I was taught I later found to be false.”
At hotel school he met Jocelyne Grass, a fellow student. He married her after graduating in 1957, and she later worked at the front of the house at his restaurant. His daughter Ariane said in an email that he had died “peacefully, holding my mother’s hand.”
In addition to his wife and his daughter Ariane, Mr. Daguin is survived by a son, Arnaud, who operates Hégia, an inn near Biarritz another daughter, Anne Daguin, who owns the pastry shop Le Petit Duc in St. Rémy, Provence and four granddaughters.
After cooking in game and fish restaurants in Paris, Mr. Daguin performed his required military service. Late in his term of service, he was pulled from duty on an emergency furlough to cook for President Charles de Gaulle, who had stopped in Auch for lunch while making a political tour of the southwest.
Mr. Daguin made it his mission to popularize traditional Gascon dishes, like the thick soup known as garbure , and to act as an ambassador for the region’s culinary heritage.
“Among Gascon chefs, Mr. Daguin has long been the undisputed leader,” Patricia Wells wrote in The Times in 1982, “and now he is becoming a sort of idol among southwestern housewives, who are proud to see him popularize the simple dishes they have cooked for generations in farm kitchens all over the sparsely populated southwest.”
To promote the region, Mr. Daguin in 1962 created La Ronde de Mousquetaires, a consortium of Gascon restaurants. The association L’Esprit du Sud (Spirit of the South), which he helped found in 2016, agitates on behalf of all things traditionally Gascon, including bullfighting, hunting and the fattening of geese for foie gras.
Mr. Daguin retired as chef in 1997. From 1991 to 2008 he served as president of the Hotel Professionals Union, a trade association representing hotel, restaurant and nightclub owners. Opinionated, blunt and occasionally pugnacious, he appeared regularly on the topical radio program “Les Grandes Gueules” (“The Big Mouths”) from its inception in 2004.
He was the author of three cookbooks: “Le Nouveau Cuisinier Gascon” (1981) “Foie Gras, Magret and Other Good Food From Gascony” (1988), written with Anne de Ravel and “1 Duck, 2 Daguin” (2010), written with his son, Arnaud. His food memoir, “Je Pense, Donc Je Cuis” (“I Think, Therefore I Cook”), was published in 2013.
“Cooking is simple,” he told The Times in 1977. “It’s to put the maximum of taste into the minimum of volume.”
Meat Maven Ariane Daguin Happily Brings Her Work Home
ALL IN | Ariane Daguin in her Manhattan kitchen
“IN GASCONY, PEOPLE ask, ‘Have you eaten?’ before they even say hello,” said Ariane Daguin, owner of New Jersey-based meat and game purveyor D’Artagnan, of her French birthplace. From foie gras to Roquefort cheese, the region’s celebrated gastronomy is in her blood. The family line stretches back over seven generations of hoteliers and restaurateurs. Her grandfather was a chef on the Trans-Orient Express her father, André Daguin, the two-Michelin-starred chef/owner of the Hôtel de France in the Gascon town of Auch.
Ms. Daguin came to the U.S. 35 years ago to study journalism at Columbia University. While in school, she took a job with a pâté company and ultimately, true to her heritage, decided to dedicate herself to the business of fine food. Soon after, she founded D’Artagnan. The company, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this fall, helped establish the first duck foie gras farm in the U.S., pioneered the marketing of sustainably-raised poultry and game, and was among the first to commercialize organic chicken.
A longtime Manhattanite, she recently moved to a new apartment that straddles the neighborhoods of Chinatown and SoHo, and the kitchen already smells of garlic, rich charcuterie and rendered chicken fat. It remains the center of her home, a welcoming space where guests gather regularly for friendly games of poker—always over a fine meal, of course.
The first thing people notice about my kitchen is: the collection of framed menus on the walls. My daughter, Alix, an architect, had this brainstorm. She said, “You have this humongous amount of menus that are from meals that are very important to you. Why don’t you frame them?” I thought it was a grand idea. So I left her in charge of the project. It was finished last Christmas, and the result is beautiful. My collection includes menus from meals I have hosted, or restaurants I love, and many of them are signed by the chefs and the guests. There are menus from Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Juan Mari and Elena Arzak, Jean-Louis Palladin, Gray Kunz, Alain Ducasse and my former D’Artagnan restaurant. The oldest menu in my collection is my father’s, from Hôtel de France. It is from before I left France, more than 35 years ago.
My cooking mentor was: my father. He was a champion of Gascony’s food: Armagnac, Gascon wines, foie gras. And he was one of the first doing nouvelle cuisine, along with [Paul] Bocuse and [Roger] Vergé. My father invented a new way of serving magret—breast of duck. The French always used it in confit, and so they never had the idea of cooking it like a steak before my father. People in Gascony said, “What is this? It looks like beef, but it doesn’t taste like beef.” And nobody, even in Gascony, recognized that it was duck because it was the first time duck was served rare. Nobody had done that before my father.
Get everything you need
Chapters devoted to game birds and farm-raised poultry, game meats, foie gras, sausages, and charcuterie offer a rich range of modern, approachable recipes including grabbers like Roasted Capon with Chestnut Honey, Dixie Duck Confit, Venison Chili with Apples, and Partridge, Pear, and Wild Mushroom Strudel. More traditional dishes, like Poule au Pot or Moroccan Squab Pie, and foie gras specialties including foie gras terrine and Pan-Roasted Foie Gras Roti with Sauternes Sauce anchor the collection. Anecdotes such as "A Passionate Grouse Lover's Challenge," interviews with game growers and providers, cooking tips and how-tos, as well as a foie gras primer and liver lexicon entertain and inform. Once considered beyond the reach of most, game today is an ever-more available, affordable, and delicious treat, a point the book brings home in dozens of enticing ways. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
Ariane Daguin and George Faison have consistently brought the finest game products to the American table. Joanna Pruess, an outstanding food writer and game cook, adds her own knowledge and passion for the subject of superb book. We assure you that in our kitchen it will be dogeared, foie gras - stained, and much appreciated as we cook from it and enjoy a good glass of wine. -- Margaret and Robert Mondavi, Robert Mondavi Winery
As lovers of game, French cooking, and of course D'Artagnan, we could not imagine a more exciting cookbook. We plan to eat at home more now that we have these great, doable recipes. -- Nina and Tim Zagat, Zagat Surveys
Everyone in the food world knows how influential D'Artagnan has been in almost single-handedly bringing great game and foie gras to great chefs in America. Now their long-kept secret can be told: these guys know how to cook! -- Danny Meyer, Co-Owner, Union Square Cafe, Grammercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, and Tabla
Through the years, I have worked with Ariane and George, and I know whatever they do is of the very best quality. Their cookbook is no exception. -- Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Chef-Owner, Vong, Jo Jo, and Jean-Georges
Ariane Daguin is an encyclopedia of foie gras knowledge. She is the owner of D’Artagnan, which supplies foie and other luxury ingredients to the nation’s top restaurants, as well as home cooks via D’Artagnan’s mail-order service. Daguin is also a French expat, cookbook author, and inspiring entrepreneur.
Here, Daguin debunks the myths of foie gras history, production, pricing, and ethics.
Chefs Turn Out for Team That Brought Them Duck Foie Gras
THE crowd arrived early -- before 7 P.M. -- and even then there was not enough foie gras to go around. But the 1,000 or so revelers celebrating the 10th anniversary of Dɺrtagnan, the game and foie gras dealer, did not seem to mind.
The void was filled by more than a ton of food -- pates, pastrami-cured duck breasts, sausages, prunes stuffed with foie gras, quails, pheasants, venison, tubs of cassoulet and gallons of Champagne, red wine and Armagnac. The bounty was arrayed on the balcony that rings the main concourse of Grand Central Station.
Ariane Daguin and George Faison, the owners of Dɺrtagnan, a company in Jersey City that takes its name from the Gascon musketeer of Alexandre Dumas, decided that for this party there had to be plenty of space.
"We had our fifth anniversary at Le Cirque, and 300 people showed up," Ms. Daguin said. "We were lucky the fire marshall did not show up, too. So for our 10th we thought about Giants Stadium or Madison Square Garden, and we decided Grand Central Station would be great."
It was a crush, as it turned out. And it was chilly. So it was a good thing so many of the guests came in hats, wigs, capes and other multilayered swashbuckling costumes to suggest the 17th century, the era of the legendary Dɺrtagnan.
"I am the Dɺrtagnan of Tokyo," said Yukio Ishizuka, a bewigged and beruffled psychiatrist displaying one of the evening's many eyebrow-pencil mustaches. He was one of dozens of Dɺrtagnans at the party, where Cyrano de Bergeracs, courtesans and princes of the Church were in good supply. The prize for the best costume was shared by the pair of Cardinal Richelieu look-alikes.
Most of New York's most prominent chefs were there -- to say nothing of chefs who came from other cities, like Gunther Seeger of Atlanta and Jean Joho from Chicago. More than 100 French chefs flew in from Gascony and Paris. "It's a terrible night to eat out in New York," remarked David Duffy, an international stockbroker who was at the party. "Every chef is here."
So was Julia Child, who came down from Cambridge, Mass. And Paula Wolfert, who traveled from San Francisco just for the party. A couple of mallards did not fly in but were carried and escaped briefly from their handlers as the crowd dwindled around midnight.
The food world was honoring a dynamic pair who a decade ago had the vision to build a company around a delicacy -- duck foie gras -- new to America. In so doing, they changed American restaurant menus forever.
Fresh foie gras had long been something of a holy grail in top French restaurants in America. Usually a slab of prepared canned French foie gras, most often goose, was the best they could do because raw livers could not be imported. But the new availability of domestic fattened duck livers gave chefs, and not just the French contingent, a new American delicacy with ample creative possibilities.
Duck foie gras can be sauteed until it is browned and lightly crisped on the outside and delectably buttery within. Restaurant-goers loved it.
Not only did Ms. Daguin understand foie gras, but as a native of Auch in the Gascony region of southwest France, where her father, Andre, has a Michelin-starred restaurant and hotel, she knew about duck foie gras.
The catalyst for the creation of Dɺrtagnan was Commonwealth Farms in the Castkills, where Izzy Yanay, an Israeli foie gras expert, had started raising moulard ducks and, with a backer, had begun the first American foie gras production.
"I went up to take a look at that farm," Ms. Daguin said. "I couldn't believe it. It was on a larger scale than in France. And the livers were very good."
At the time of her visit, in 1982, Ms. Daguin worked for Les Trois Petits Cochons, New York's first French charcuterie company. "We started working on an exclusive deal, but at the last minute they got cold feet," Ms. Daguin said of her employers. Alain Sinturel, an owner of Les Trois Petits Cochons, said he and his partner were not sure enough to go ahead with the foie gras.
Mr. Yanay recalled meeting "a little guy, a big guy and a tall woman." He said the woman knew what it was all about and was the one who was interested.
Ms. Daguin could not turn her back on the project. "Ariane had a mission," George Faison said. He was her first convert.
She had met Mr. Faison, who is from Houston, at Columbia University in the late 1970's, where both were students, and he joined her at Les Trois Petits Cochons. It was the start of a business relationship -- it was never a romantic one -- that is being celebrated this week.
"People always assume we're a couple, and when they say I can bring my wife to a party, they're surprised when it's not Ariane," Mr. Faison said.
He has learned to accept the fact that as brawny and exuberant as he may be, Ms. Daguin, a strapping woman, is such a presence that many people do not realize that she has a partner.
"Who's that?" some people at the party asked when they saw Mr. Faison, dressed in duck-hunting camouflage, on stage at the party with Ms. Daguin, Julia Child and Sirio Macci oni of Le Cirque.
After Ms. Daguin and Mr. Faison left Les Trois Petits Cochons and formed Dɺrtagnan, they began packing the livers from Mr. Yanay's ducks in a Mexican-food plant in Brooklyn and distributing duck foie gras to restaurants from a small office in Jersey City.
The partners soon took over more space in the Jersey City building, added a kitchen so they could consolidate the operation and began manufacturing terrines, pates and duck confit and importing and distributing game and free range chickens. Prepared dishes like cassoulet were added.
Half the production of Hudson Valley Foie Gras, which bought Commonwealth Farms and where Mr. Yanay is now a partner, is shipped to Dɺrtagnan. Michael Ginor, the principal owner of Hudson Valley Foie Gras, stressed that being in the New York market was critical to Dɺrtagnan's success. He also sells foie gras and duck parts to dozens of other distributors around the world. And though his ego bumps into Ms. Daguin's from time to time, he said that their relationship is very good.
"Ariane knows what she is doing and is the only one who buys everything, even the wings and gizzards," he said.
With Mr. Yanay at work in the Catskills, duck foie gras might have eventually made it onto many menus anyway, but all involved acknowledge Ms. Daguin's contribution. Once she even slipped a serving of American duck foie gras to President Francois Mitterrand of France.
"I wish we had other companies that worked as well with the chefs and stood by their products the way Dɺrtagnan does," said Laurent Manrique, the chef at the Peacock Alley at the Waldorf-Astoria. Claude Troisgros, the owner of C. T. in Manhattan, said he had been aware of Dɺrtagnan before he opened his restaurant last year.
Dɺrtagnan has 65 employees and annual gross sales of $15 million, up from $7.5 million in 1991. Hudson Valley Foie Gras doubled its production during that period.
Ms. Daguin's ties to France remain strong. So strong, in fact, that thanks in part to the French, what began as a gargantuan party Monday night has turned into more than a week of events and celebrations. "It has become the Gascon trade week," Mr. Faison said.
The chefs who came from France for the party will be cooking Gascon specialties in more than 40 of Manhattan's French restaurants for at least a week.
Cassoulet, the typical bean and sausage dish of Gascony, will be the subject of a cooking demonstration at noon today at the Food Emporium at 68th Street and Third Avenue and at Macy's tomorrow at 12:30 P.M. A slide show about Gascony has been scheduled at the Alliance Francaise for 6 this evening.
Tonight around 11:30, at Trois Jean on East 79th Street, the chef, Jean-Louis Dumonet, will serve a giant cassoulet for more than 100 people, mostly chefs. He had to have a special pot manufactured. Tomorrow night a vat of garbure, the thick vegetable soup of Gascony, will be the midnight snack for a similar group, mostly chefs, at Gascogne, a restaurant in Chelsea.
And Friday? "We collapse," Ms. Daguin said, adding that next week her partner is going on vacation. "That was the only thing I didn't plan right."
Ariane Daguin was born into a world of great food. Her father, André Daguin, chef-owner of the Hotel de France in Auch, Gascony, is famous throughout France for his artistry with foie gras and other Gascon specialties.
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. In 1985 she gathered her financial resources and launched D’Artagnan, the only purveyor of game and foie gras in the U.S. at the time. The creation of D’Artagnan coincided with a growing sophistication in American cuisine and an increased interest in organic, free-range chicken and humanely raised veal. At the vanguard of the farm-to-table movement, today D’Artagnan is the leading purveyor of organic poultry, game, foie gras, pâtés, sausages, smoked delicacies, and wild mushrooms to the nation.
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. She is on the board of City Harvest, and active in The American Institute of Wine & Food and Women Chefs and Restaurateurs. 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, she was awarded the French Legion d’Honneur. – source Updated January 2018