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Interview | Chef Didier Durand

The French chef talks about cows, pigs and foam.

Photo : Dave Rentauskas
Didier Durand at Cyrano's Farm Kitchen

This week, Didier Durand, who has cooked at and owned [node:148707 link=Cyrano’s Bistrot;] in Old Town for 16 years, unveils a new concept in that space: Cyrano’s Farm Kitchen. Born on a farm in Bergerac, France, Durand says his heart was calling on him to start cooking the food he was raised on. “I’m turning 50,” he says. “This is my last chance and opportunity to reinvent myself.”

A lot of restaurants have gotten in on this farm thing—there’s a whole farm-to-table movement. Any thoughts on that?
I want to go further than that, and ahead of that, by showing the farming life. I’m very suspicious and skeptical of people who buy a chicken sandwich and they have no idea where that chicken came from. That it was a live chicken, that it was raised on a farm. People go to a zoo to see a rooster or a cow. That’s sad! So throughout the restaurant, [and with] the cooking, I want people to feel the farm experience. I think that hasn’t been done. People have done farm to table, but not given the feeling of where the food comes from, or how a farm works.

So, how will you achieve that? Have chickens running around?
[Laughs] Not yet. We have to change the Health Department laws. But you know, in France, chickens are on the kitchen tables.

Live chickens?
Yeah, absolutely. You may have a pig running around, you may have ducks and chickens. They are pretty much domesticated. If they happen to find the door open, they will go in. And that’s fun! What’s wrong with that? Anyway, we’ll serve bread smeared with pan juices and a little sea salt. That’s what I was raised on—sometimes we had no food so we had to recycle. For dessert we’ll do a clafoutis-like dish my mom used to make. And we’ll cook a lot with duck fat. That’s what we used, because we had plenty of it.

So will this farm food still be from a French perspective?
Maybe not. But I definitely will stay away from foam and nitrogen and molecular anything. Never embraced it, never did it and never will! None of my dishes will have smoke coming out of a pillow, revealing some microscopic thing that could look like food but is not. My style is to feed people, not to have them crave for food when they leave a restaurant.

Cyrano’s Farm Kitchen (546 N Wells St, 312-467-0546) is slated to open this week.

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