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Meet Francis Lucquiaud

Meet Francis Lucquiaud

In a land where people live to eat, rather than eating to live, gastronomic genius Francis Lucquiaud has always walked tall among his fellow professionals...

FrancisAside from his remarkable career as a chef, Francis Lucquiaud has achieved fame throughout France for his writings on France's favourite topic: food. Compiled with the aim of keeping his beloved art alive by using time-honoured skills and recipes, his works are best described as manuals rather than mere cookery books. And it is within La Rochelle's superb covered and outdoor markets that he finds all the ingredients needed to conjure up his fine fare.

During winter, Francis and his wife Danielle live a stone's throw from La Rochelle's Marché Central, where Francis can often be found in rapt conversation with his favourite stallholders. Here, the merits of a particular cheese, the dessert La Jonchée or a mushroom in season are mulled over in detail. He chooses from the huge piles of succulent vegetables, the gamut of seafood, free range poultry, game and other top quality meat, plus plentiful spices and great bunches of fresh herbs.

At the beginning of May each year, Francis and Danielle leave La Rochelle to the tourists and move back to their family homestead in the Vienne hamlet of Le Coureau. This is where he plants and tends the garden, growing fat tomatoes, globe artichokes, rows of parsley and herbs, lettuce and other vegetables. These form part of his meticulously planned menus for family and friends throughout the summer, while he preserves all manner of produce for later in the year.

Francis is only too happy to share his basic philosophy, 'The success of a good meal is marked by the use of authentic products, beautiful presentation, good humour and the right atmosphere,' he says. This is conveyed through his series of books, the first of which was published four years ago. Entitled 'Recettes du Poitou-Charentes’, it divulges the culinary secrets of his two grandmothers, Hortense and Celestine. In this manual we find traditional recipes: delicious soups, duck pate, the Charentaise version of jugged hare, rabbit in cider, apple and nettle tarte, chocolate truffles and so on. How proud those two grandmothers would now be - not to mention Francis's own mother, Madame Mauricette, who was a highly accomplished cook in her own right. Francis gained much of his vast experience as a very young ‘premier comis’ at Maxim's, the world famous Paris restaurant. But he's a native of Poitou-Charentes, having lived and worked in the region for most of his life and grown up at La Boule d'Or, the erstwhile hotel at Couhé Verac that was run by his parents for many years.

After his French military service in Algeria - where he became the much favoured 'chef de cuisine' to the Admiral - Francis returned home to enhance the reputation of his parents' simple restaurant with an increasing number of passing foreigners.

In 1969, long hours of adult study finally took Francis away from the kitchen to join the teaching profession. He taught at the big hotel school in Clermond Ferrand for several years, and was later appointed to Poitiers. He quickly rose to become an apprenticeship inspector and travelled widely throughout the region, visiting students in work placements and then their schools to ensure that the high standards were being properly maintained. In 1989, his work for the national education service was recognised by a Palme d'Or Academique award.

His subsequent books, 'Recettes Gourmandes Charentaises' and ‘Coquillages et Crustaces', are of inestimable value to the vast majority of us British. Knocked for six by the sheer variety, quality and quantity of what's available here in France, we often have little idea of how to make the most of the local produce and seafood.

'Unfortunately, I believe that people are cooking less and less and eating all the worse for that,' Francis says. ‘We should be looking after our health and well-being by offering meals that restore, persuade and console. I'm convinced that we are well rewarded by keeping food simple and good. which is why I want to bring back the flavours and tastes of olden times.'

All Francis's books are available from Geste Editions, 3 Rue Norman Borlaug, 79260 La Creche.

Francis's favourite Marché Central stallholders

Mekketiche (Fruit and Veg)

Michel Bureau, La Bergerie (CremerieFromagerie),+33 (0)5 46 41 20 23

Cyril Alia margot, (Boucherie- Charcuterie), +33 (0)5 46 412164

Chez Titou, Poissonerie Fontaine, + 33 (0)5 46 41 77 48

Mme Pommier, (La Jonchée Fromage Dessert), +33 (0)5 46 3590 18

R. Lacour (Champignons), +33 (0 5 46 90 51 74

Francois, SAS Pigeonnier (Coquillages et Crustaces). +33 (0)5 46 4112 62

Bois de Pan (Vollailles, Lapins), +33 (0)5 46 90 82 84


Originally published in Living Poitou-Charentes magazine 2008  © All Rights Reserved