Chef Elodie Pichard of CRU in Bordeaux

When the Michelin Guide came out with its new list of culinary stars in the region for 2020, it was impossible to miss the lack of female chefs. I regularly work with Chef Caroline Alix of Restaurant Caro&Co in Bazas as part of my business coordinating local Bazadais farm tours in the Bordeaux countryside, highlightingfarmers and their products. Through this coordination it’s become clear that women are scarcely found in the professional kitchen locally, and certainly not chef owners. So, I made a point to get out and research this anomaly to make sure what I felt was actually real.

In the city of Bordeaux, I was only able to find two female chef owners where there is roughly one restaurant for every 285 citizens (source 20minutes.fr). Chef Oxana Ramat of Cromagnun and Chef Elodie Pichard of CRU*.

A native of Langon, in Gironde, Chef Elodie Pichard gives her paternal grandmother the credit for inspiring her to cook. She would spend time in the actual kitchen of her grandmothers, using real tools and real pots and pans to make real meals rather than spending time with a play kitchen like many other small children. Elodie completed her professional training at ICFA Bordeaux LAC, then interned with chef Pierrick Celibert of C’Yusha in Bordeaux, whom she considers her mentor.

It was at the 30th Bourse Badoit in 2017 (professional cooking competition) with Chef Thierry Marx that her signature veal tartare was introduced. The dish is still served in some form on the menu at her restaurant, CRU (‘raw’ in French). The first thing you notice when entering the restaurant is the calm and the warm welcome from Jeremie (her partner). The restaurant which serves primarily tartare and carpaccio was a concept conceived after Jeremie pointed out how hard it was to find good tartare in a restaurant. The open kitchen is at the far back of the restaurant with tables nearby, should you want to be close to the action.

Elodie has a glow about her as she speaks about food. She is serious about her craft and yet incredibly down to earth at the same time. Local products like Ferme Rougié duck and FermePuntoun foie gras are found on the menu. A walnut oil from Dordogne that is made in an old water powered press graces many of her dishes. It’s clear that sourcing local ingredients is important to CRU. Even someone who is not used to eating tartare will appreciate the freshness, the textures and the flavors of her food.

Shaved radish carpaccio

Considering why I started this project, I had to ask how Elodie felt being a female in the French kitchen.  Elodie certainly doesn’t feel like it is the reason there aren’t more women in the professional restaurant industry. She mentioned the occasional sting when people come into the restaurant and assume her husband is the chef and speak directly to him, or the time when a photo of Bordeaux chefs was taken and only her and Chef Oxana Ramat of Cromagnon were cut out of the (now) all-male image. Small, but poignant. This is a great thing to hear, that sexism isn’t a reason more women aren’t cooking and owning their own restaurants but it doesn’t explain the obvious discrepancy in gender representation. 

This past May, I was supposed to be leading a culinary school tour of Paris and Barcelona. It’s my tenth year of working with culinary school groups and it does feel like there are more female chefs, but it’s still a minute number. Comparatively, the culinary school attendees (with statistiqes from Ferrandi-Paris and The Culinary Institute of America taken into account) tend to be fifty percent female, with a majority of women going into pastry. Audrey Janet of Ferrandi-Paris made a good point, that it is only in the last decade that these numbers of female culinary graduates have been achieved and that we should be seeing more female chef owners and head chefs in the near future. It will be exiting to see what transpires over the next decade and with leaders like Chef Elodie Pichard to inspire current female culinary graduates to continue their career progression into leadership roles.

Addresses from this article :

CRU Restaurant / Lunch Thursday-Saturday and Dinner Tuesday-Saturday / 33 rue des Bahutiers, 33000 Bordeaux / http://www. cru-restaurant-bordeaux.fr / +33 5 24 72 24 14

Walnut Oil by Moulin de la Veyssiere / Tours daily / La Petite Veyssière 24190 NEUVIC SUR L’ISLE / www.moulindelaveyssiere.fr / +33 6 32 96 17 89‬

Le Puntoun Foie Gras / Rte de Tarbes – 32300 St Martin / http://www.lepuntoun.com / +33 5 62 66 73 20 

Aquitaine Travel Guide is a culinary tourism company based in the Bordeaux countryside connecting people with the local farmers, products and chefs. A true farm-to-table experience from oysters to foie gras. We support local business, women owned businesses, small farms, organic and biodynamic wines. www.aquitainetravelguide.com / aquitaineguide@gmail.com / +33 6 33 91 37 90

*please contact me if you are a female chef/owner in Bordeaux or surrounding areas

Visiting Barcelona

This is by far one of my favorite cities to visit and was so lucky to have been able to call it home before we made the decision to move to the Bordeaux region.

These are my suggestions for your visit in Barcelona, please feel free to message me for more suggestions or if you have any questions.

TRANSPORTATION :

Arriving into Barcelona by train is simple, Barcelona Sants is centrally located and it is a nonstop six-hour trip from Paris for around 80 EURO each way (some deals for under 30 EURO can be found). From Bordeaux it will take just as long, if not more, and will require a transfer. Train bookings open up three months prior to date of departure.

Flights are equally simple and cheap, Vueling and Easyjet can have nonstop flights as low as 20 EURO each way. Once you leave the airport, the AEROBUS can take you to Placa Catalonia starting at 6 EURO. Taxis are cheap in Barcelona as well and will run you around 20 EURO from the airport to town. UBER doesn’t exist, so you would want to download the local versions app Cabify.

Driving is another alternative which allows you to explore the beautiful Costa Brava coastline between France and Spain, as well as take side trips to Romain ruins at Empuries or the Scala Dei vineyards of Priorat. Parking in Barcelona isn’t hard and there are plenty of parking decks starting around 18 EURO a day.

For the metro, buy a T-Casual ticket with ten trips for 11.35€ from any machine in the metro. Make sure you don’t bend it or keep it next to a magnet.

WHAT TO SEE :

As I am a food-centric person, you’ll have to excuse the fact that my trip primarily revolves around meals, markets and snacks! You have to take the time to visit at least a couple of markets. Each neighborhood of Barcelona has a market, at least one, and they are impressive. The quality and vast range of products will make anyone with a kitchen happy! Plus the prices, if you’re coming from France.

The Boqueria, on the Ramblas, is probably the most well known and visited market. There has been a market on these premises since the 1217, when the local farmers would pull up with their produce to sell. The current structure is from the mid 1800’s and is beautiful. I’m sad to say, however, that over the past decade the number of authentic stands (not dedicated to tourism) have waned dramatically. If you want to get a sense of what the market used to feel like, go early in the morning (aim for 8am) and after walking around, stop at one of the counters, order una cana (beer) and a plate bunyols (fried cod fritters). The fish section of the Boqueria is incredible, but due to high numbers of tourists the fish mongers will prefer if you refrain from taking photos.

If you want to visit a local market less frequented by tourists, try the Mercat Santa Caterina in La Ribera with it’s tiled roof of a pixelated image of fruit and vegetables, or head to the newly renovated Mercat de Sant Antoni in Poble Sec (great neighborhood for tapas hopping).

If the Ramblas is the Times Square of Barcelona, then El Born Neighborhood is the Brooklyn. It is a really fun, hip place to be with beautiful streets to wonder through, a chocolate museum and school and a covered market that has been turned into an archeological museum. Bar del Pla is perfect spot to grab lunch or dinner, with classic tapas but also creative additions in a traditional bodega setting / Carrer Montcada, num. 2, 08003, Barcelona / +34 932 683 003

The Gotico neighborhood is where a lot of shopping can be had and where the beautiful Cathedral Santa Cruz is located. During the Christmas season, a giant caga tio (excellent video by the late Anthony Bourdain) is placed in front and you can watch local children stand in line to beat the log…as we would line up to sit on santas lap. If you don’t know about the caganer or caga tio, watch this. It’s the most unique European Christmas tradition I’ve seen yet.

If olive oil is your thing, and this would be the traditional cooking fat of Spain, then OroLiquido is a must. The owner, Ana, has an incredible selection of oils from all over Spain and Xavier (who also has his own olive oil farm BOOC) will be happy to take you through how to taste the different varieties / Carrer de la Palla 8, 08002, Barcelona / +34 933 022 980

One of the most beautiful jewelry shops I’ve ever been in with plenty of local artisans, is located here as well. La Basilica Galeria is worth a stop / Carrer de la Palla, 35, 08002, Barcelona / +34 933 042 047

There are so many shops, contact us for ideas based on your preferences!

There are so many amazing museums, but book in advance anything possible, like the Picasso Museum and Sagrada Familia. My personal favorite is the Barcelona City History Museum to follow the centuries of development in the city. Placa Espana is a beautiful walk after enjoying tapas all night in Poble Sec, a walk up to the National Museum of Catalan Art is scenic. There are no longer bullfights in Barcelona, but you can visit the old Monumental bullring and museum (located near to Sagrada Familia).

Image from Thoughts on Barcelona

WHERE TO STAY :

There are plenty of great hotels in Barcelona, but the most important part is choosing the right neighborhood. Avoid Raval, as it is changing but you might also still find shady characters and goings on. The Gotico can be too crowded and while generally safe, is best avoided. The Ramblas, like Times Square, is an invitation for pickpockets as well as visitors. Airbnb and VRBO are a great option in Barcelona, because the ability to use a kitchen and work with all the amazing products is a treat!

If you want quiet try the neighborhood of Sant Gervasi, near metro stops Muntaneer or Sant Gervasi, which is residential and completely dead on Saturday afternoon and Sunday, but is only a five minute metro ride into Placa Catalonia. The Mercure is clean, safe, offers parking, and has a great breakfast / Via Augusta 127HB003342, 8006, BARCELONA / +34 932 094 511

El Born will be lively at night with plenty of bars and clubs, so be aware of who your neighbor is to avoid loud music and yelling in the streets, which is the same to be said for Barceloneta (not great for distance from metro). Eixample is safe, residential, as is Poble Nou which is also close to the beach and much calmer. Escriba, a master of pastry in Barcelona, has a wonderful paella (not local, Valencian origins) and fiduea (Catalan version of paella) restaurant on the beach Xiringuito Escriba Avinguda Litoral, 62, 08005, Barcelona / +34 932 210 729

WHERE TO EAT :

This list is just a taste of what there is to be had in Barcelona. First lets talk cuisine. You’re in Barcelona, so Catalan and Molecular cuisine are king. Make reservations at any place listed, if possible.

CATALAN

While Barcelona is in Spain, their identity is Catalan which is a region reaching to the Pyrenees and South of Barcelona. The local language is Catalan, with many older people speaking French as a third language and the younger generation speaking English. There is fierce pride in their language and identity after decades under authoritarian regimes that tried to erase their language and culture. Catalan cuisine is unique in many ways, the influence between the border with France might be the biggest difference between their food and the rest of Spain. Their love of mar i muntanya (surf and turf) will be immediately noticeable. The five sauces you will find in nearly any traditional dish – romanesco, sofregit (sofrito), aioli, picada, and samfania – really characterize the dishes.

Classical Catalan at Freixa Tradicio was my favorite, but it has since closed (2018). Modern Catalan can be found in many places, but the two OG’s of bistrionomic cuisine in Barcelona would have to be Embat and Gresca.

EMBAT – modern Catalan using local and seasonal ingredients with traditional recipes, in a small, family-run restaurant. Expect cod and rich truffle sauces / Lunch Monday-Saturday, Dinner Thursday-Saturday / http://www.embatrestaurant.com / Mallorca, 304, Eixample, 08037, Barcelona / +34 934 580 855

GRESCA – modern Catalan restaurant with local ingredients and great technique (no molecular) and newer adjoining wine bar, think eggs and jamon Iberico with a twist / Daily for lunch and Monday-Friday for dinner / C/ Provenca 230, 08036, Barcelona / +34 934 516 193

MOLECULAR

Most people have heard of El Bulli, that institution and birth place of molecular gastronomy in the hills by Roses on the Costa Brava. Gourmet magazine referred to Adria as “the Salvador Dali­ of the kitchen“. Thanks to the Adria brothers, the look and feel of food has been forever changed. Ferran Adria is still active in the culinary world, many restaurants in Barcelona will say how he has come to their establishment to dine. However, the new head of the Adria empire is Albert with elBarri restaurants. From the circus-styled taperia Tickets to the modern take on Mexican at Hoja Santa, your senses are sure to be simultaneously tricked and pleased.

El Bulli produced not only impressive food, but incredible talent like Akreme Benallal whom I had the privilege of staging with in Paris years ago. The whole city of Barcelona is filled with restaurants that have chefs who either worked at or staged at El Bulli…from Disfrutar to Alkimia.

One of my favorites, is Pakta of the Adria brand. They do Nikkei (Japanese-Peruvian cuisine), lots of small plates with great flavors and unique techniques, excellent service and a wonderful Japanese whisky menu / Dinner only Tuesday-Saturday / C/ Lleida 5, 08004, Barcelona / https://elbarri.com/en/restaurant/pakta / +34 936 240 177

TAPAS

They may not be Catalan, but Spanish tapas are everywhere…alongside their Basque cousin, the pinxco. So, where to try them? Head to Poble Sec, one of the more up and coming neighborhoods that has transformed immensely in the last five years.

A great place to start, is Els Sortidors del Parlament will have barrel tables near the front and long wooden tables in the back serving up typical Xarcuteria plates and formatges, little bowls of local Arebequina olives and pa amb tomaquet (bread with tomato). Take a glass of the house vermut or local beer and take in the locals laid back ambrience / Carrer del Parlament, 53, 08015, Barcelona / +34 934 411 602

Afterwards, if you can get in, try Quimet y Quimet if only for their smoked salmon and truffled honey. Then head to Carrer del Blai and grab a little of everything…the street is filled with spots for tapas.

Further afield is another favorite, Lolita (currently closed until March 2020). The friend eggplant and molasses, tiny goat ribs, beans and truffle and their own version of the Quimet y Quimet classic / c/ Tamarit, 104, Local 2-4, 08015, Barcelona / +34 934 245 231

If you want more restaurant recommendations, please send me a message with the dates you’re going and budget.