Ariane Daguin, the Duchess of Duck
It was a bright, sunny day on my visit to D'Artagnan, but there was trouble at the company. Hurricane Harvey had hit the day before, and a driver from the Houston warehouse was missing. Ariane took phone calls, gave instructions and excused herself, leaving her office several times to get updates, but she never let the slightest bit of stress show. "I am SO sorry", she gushed. Informed of the trouble, I offered to return another day, but she was insistent I stay. (Note: he was finally located later in the day). This is the Ariane Daguin people had told me about. True to her word, commitments honored. How fitting she should name her company after the most honorable and brave of the three Musketeers: D'Artagnan!
History of the company
D'Artagnan Foods, is privately owned by Ariane Daguin. She founded the company in 1985, with her (then) business partner. At present she is the sole owner of the business, with its headquarters and main warehouse in Union, New Jersey. There are additional warehouses in Chicago, Houston, and Atlanta, facilitating storage and efficient shipping throughout the country. The products they sell range from beef (grass fed and Wagyu), pork, lamb, veal, sausages, charcuterie, organic poultry, game, mushrooms and even truffles. Last but not least, is the product which put D'Artagnan on the map: duck foie gras. All the meat they sell must meet the highest quality standards.The company sells mostly to restaurants, but they also ship directly to consumers, overnight, in most cases. The company oversees the farms that raise meat and poultry, ensuring they are hormone free, natural, free range or organic. Her motto of "a happy chicken is a tasty chicken" holds true for all the products they sell.
Ariane is not the tough business woman one would expect to meet. Looking around her office at all the baubles, pictures and funny momentos posted on every wall, I knew this was the kind of person who enjoys life, works hard and loves the people around her. Even her car is a reflection of her whimsical nature: a bright yellow Mini with duck imprints runnning up and down the sides, who would have thought of that? As an informational gesture, she keeps geese, chickens and ducks in a special area visible to visitors. There are Rouen Ducks she named "Duke and Duchess of Union", a Goose named "Toulouse Lucy" and a variety of Heritage chickens: "Cruella Deville", "Phoebe the Freebie" and "Coq au Vin". We hadn't met before but after a tour of the company and of her feathered friends, she quickly warmed up. We had lively discussions about France, life, and the importance of the people in her life. This led to my asking her why she came to the United States. She said, "I wound up in New York to study political science at Columbia University, but after a couple of years, I ran out of money and to be honest, it was difficult, a heavy course load in English and all". Thankfully, her part time job with the charcuterie company, "Les Trois Petits Cochons" , led her to what she knew best and to what Americans did not: foie gras. It was a gamble, however she stayed with the idea, expanding products to poultry, game, meat, mushrooms and truffles.
A culinary past
Born into the culinary world, Ariane's father, André Daguin, is chef-owner of the Hôtel de France in Auch, Gascony, a Michelin two star restaurant. Her exposure to an environment where practically everyone she knew was involved in the food industry in some way, gave her the impetus to introduce fine cuisine and the delicacies she knew well to the American public. As a little girl, she worked with her father wherever help was needed, eviscerating ducks or setting tables at the restaurant. She was the eldest of three. Her younger brother is the middle child, followed by her sister. Although it was never official, it was understood that her brother would take over the business. Ariane did not habor resentment, at that time there was no doubt about it, men took over family businesses, but it left her with a sense of pride that encouraged her to move far away, strengthen her own identity and the courage to launch her own business. " I did not want anyone to say: Oh! She is there because of her father", she told me. Ariane's respect for women's careers led her to head "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. She was recognized in 1994 by The James Beard Foundation “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America,” and 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 coveted French Legion d'Honneur.
So, with all that.... En garde! Make way for the Duchess! And may she continue to make her invisible carbon duckprint on the modern culinary world! Bonne chance to her! Visit her website at: http://www.dartagnan.com/
Make sure to watch the interview above and see the photos I took at D'Artagnan. And please, subscribe to my website!