Can’t get enough foie gras, pâté en croûte, and all things charcuterie in your life? Then you need to meet Aurélien Dufour, creator of Dufour Gourmet. Based in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, Dufour founded his namesake company based on his love of all things meat related. Now a few years in, Dufour remains inspired by the great art of French cuisine (and has learned quite a few things along the way). Get to know him and his unique journey to starting a charcuterie-focused business in the United States through our exclusive interview here.
Tell us a bit about your background. Where are you from and what were you doing before moving to the USA?
I was born in Pessac (Bordeaux area), France, but I grew up in Germany, near Hamburg. I came back to France when I was a teenager and did not adapt to the French school system, as French was not my first language. I had to choose a professional path for myself and decided to study “cooking.”
I started to study classic French Cuisine and I was also working on special catering events. I was curious about the catering industry, so I decided to study catering for a few years. That’s how I ended up in the “traiteur” / charcuterie field. “Traiteur” is linked to charcuterie, as they offer many different sorts of platters for special occasions.
I worked a little bit in Bordeaux as a cook, then in Arcachon as a charcutier apprentice, and then in the suburbs of Paris for Gerard Berranger, a Charcutier MOF (Meilleur Ouvrier de France), where I really found my passion for this craft.
I was able to learn from my mentor, who was very supportive when I participated in “Charcutier-Traiteur” competitions. He loved to teach and to pass down his knowledge to the new generations. From there, I was offered a job in NYC.
What made you move to New York?
Chef Daniel Boulud was opening a restaurant in partnership with Gilles Verot (a famous Parisian charcutier) where the menu was focused on charcuterie. Gilles Verot was looking for a charcutier in NYC to produce all of the products for the restaurant, Bar Boulud. I was offered the position and this is how my NYC adventure started.
How did you first become interested in cooking?
It comes from my father. He was very passionate about cooking. He was working in aeronautics in Germany, a completely different field, however, every weekend he was cooking all day long – he started to prepare dinner early in the morning! So, I believe I got some of his passion, too.
Tell us a bit about Dufour Gourmet. What was the inspiration behind it and how did you come up with the concept?
I’ve always wanted to have my own business. When working for Chef Daniel Boulud, we were producing charcuterie for the restaurant group only. We had many inquiries from other Businesses, but we could not supply them. After studying the market and a few years of reflection, I decided to create Dufour Gourmet. The idea was to produce charcuterie wholesale—mostly French—and to improve and diversify the offer of French artisanal charcuterie in NYC and in the USA. We started doing business with chefs we knew, and slowly grew by word of mouth, mostly.
We opened about two years before COVID. Following the pandemic, most of our clients closed, so we’ve created a retail line and used our online platform to sell to consumers. We used social media to promote our brand and were able to slowly grow our audience.
What are your specialties at Dufour Gourmet? How can people order from you?
We make all sorts of French charcuterie, such sausages, pâtés, terrines, mousses, foie gras, meat pies, and quiches. I would say that our specialty is the pâté en croûte which is a traditional dish made with ground meat that is gently wrapped in a pastry dough and baked. There are so many different ways of making it, I find it very interesting and fun!
We have an online platform www.dufourgourmet.com where we sell our artisanal charcuterie to consumers and ship nationwide.
Who are some of your biggest culinary inspirations?
I would say that my passion and discipline comes from Gerard Berranger, my mentor for whom I worked with for five years. He is incredibly talented and shared his knowledge with me. I took part in many competitions and he was always there to encourage me, help me with recipes, and push me to always do better.
What are some lessons you learned while creating your company abroad?
It is quite easy to create a company on a legal standpoint, but it demands a lot of patience and perseverance to overcome all of the little obstacles, such as finding the right kitchen location, the right people to work with for construction, getting the right equipment, finding reliable partners to create the brand and packaging, and having a dependable team. You have to keep believing in yourself, in your products and always keep pushing! The biggest lesson that I learned is to never give up.
What do you love most about French cuisine?
I love the heritage of French cuisine and that most classic French recipes have stories behind them. French gastronomy is a true heritage and we should treasure it. I love the charcuterie history as well. For example, the dough around the pâté en croûte was not edible, but used to preserve the meat inside, as there was no refrigeration in the Middle Ages! This beautiful and delicate dish has been wrongfully neglected and misjudged for many years. Hopefully in the last decade, many young talented charcutiers and young chefs have started to revive this ancient specialty. It even has its own World Cup Championship where I was awarded third place in 2015.
What is it like preparing French food in the USA?
The biggest challenge is that we cannot always find the right ingredients to prepare some of the French dishes. There are a few classic dishes made with parts of the animal that are discarded here in the USA. For example, we would like to make andouillette which is a coarse-grained sausage made from the intestine of pork with onions, wine, and spices, but I can’t find the intestine to make it.
When I was working for Daniel Boulud, I created a relationship with many local farmers and was able to have some “custom” cuts of meat to make them more similar to the French cuts. I would not say there is anything easy about preparing French food in the USA, but we do the best that we can with what we have to make people happy (and myself!)
Do you have a favorite dish to prepare?
I love to make pâté en croûte, as there is no limit to what I can create. We can change the meat from pork, poultry to game meats, we can add vegetables in it, dried fruits, pistachios… it is limitless. At home, I love to cook some of the classics like veal blanquette, beef bourguignon, and veal marengo.
What are some of your favorite things to eat outside of work? Any other cuisines that you particularly love?
I am quite open to every kind of food, but right now I am very fond of Korean cuisine. I’ve been to many Korean Barbecues in Flushing, but there is so much more than that. My neighbor is Korean, and during the pandemic, we would exchange food. When making classic French dishes like blanquette de veau or boeuf bourguignon, I would leave some by their door and they would in exchange give me some of their Korean specialty. Thanks to COVID, we were able to get to know each other better via our food!
What are some USA-based restaurants / bars that you like most?
To me, I love going back to Bar Boulud and bringing friends there as they serve charcuterie and classic French dishes that are well executed.
Any advice for those looking to move to the USA and start a business?
I would say that you need to know your market well, find the right partners (not just investors) and a knowledgeable and trustworthy legal advisor. You will need to be careful when finding a location, negotiating the lease, and building your brand. You will need a lot of support around you, to be committed to your project and have a lot of tenacity. If your idea/product is right and your clients support you, then you should succeed :)