Repost from 2018.
ANDRÉ LESAINT WAS A CHARCUTIER and a celebrated one at that. His shop in Normandy was in the front of his home and he awoke early every morning to create the type of patés that France is famous for. People would line up outside at holidays to get their special Paté de Foie Gras .
A charcutier is someone who works with meat, specifically pork, but unlike a butcher, he is a chef that specializes in the afore mentioned family of patés that also includes sausages, galantines and terrines.
While other cultures lay claim to sausages & varieties of smoked meats, the French expanded upon these edible notions and formed an entire genre of cuisine that is no less artful than it is delicious.
The Charcuterie shop was beautifully kept and a destination for customers from all over the region. André was working in it at six am to prepare for his daily clients, lining the case with boudin blanc, boudin noir, jamboneaux and all manner of artful creations. His Saumon en Croute was a family favorite poached in white wine and then wrapped in puff pastry. His workshop was in a little out building in the rear yard. As children, his sons would watch him make his creations at the large center table. A favorite memory was his sculpting a chapel from pork rillettes, complete with a radish clock tower. He would get his meat directly from a local farm, selecting a live animal that he would butcher himself to insure freshness. Rabbits were kept in a cage in the yard for future terrines. The boys all knew where their food originated.
His children witnessed firsthand the true hard work, risk and stress that accompanies the entrepreneur who strikes out on his own. Large loans were taken to fit out a shop and buy equipment. Holidays for the owner meant work, not parties. Sick days meant disappointed customers and no sales. Although André was determined to succeed and toiled tirelessly toward his goal, he endured not one but two back surgeries and finally admitted defeat. He closed his shop and sold all his equipment to pay off his loans. When he was well enough to work again, he took jobs for other charcutiers and as chef at a small hotel in town.
“Growing up in Normandy, my father was a charcutier, and later a chef in our town’s small hotel. As a kid, I would always help cook and by 10 years old I was pretty handy in the kitchen. My dream was to be a chef, like my father.”
- Stéphane Lesaint
As gifted and driven as he was, he was also a uniquely kind and gentle man with very little of the ego one might expect. He was never cross or moody with his family and wore an easy smile. He liked a glass of wine with dinner, un petit canon he used to say. His true pride was his four spirited boys and he encouraged them all to pursue their hearts & dreams. In his later years he traveled several times to New York to visit his son Stéphane , an expatriate. He thoroughly enjoyed hamburgers but did have trouble eating one without a fork and knife.
André is no longer with us, but he is warmly remembered by his family: an artist who cared about family, a man with a gift who did what he must to support them, his beautifully prepared and arranged creations that his sons still talk about. His spirit and name lives on in his children and they drink a toast to his memory when they gather for family meals. This Father’s Day, celebrate your Dad and treat him to a box of rich, dark and satisfying chocolate as special as he is. And if he is no longer with us, a toast to his memory.