Fine cut: meeting Benjamin Darnaud, the bijou butcher behind Viande & Chef
‘Killing an animal is not a simple act,’ says butcher and chef Benjamin Darnaud, ‘so we need to consume it responsibly.’
All of which explains why he stocks only one animal at a time at his bijou butchery Viande & Chef in Paris’s buzzy Canal St Martin quarter. ‘We are trying to work as much as possible with the whole animal,’ he says, explaining why a new carcass isn’t ordered till every cut has been sold or turned into one of Darnaud’s cult favourite savoury sausages flavoured with paprika and roasted garlic, or juniper and rosemary.
‘The modern food model is very weak because the meat industry wants its produce very quickly, so it changes the cattle’s genetics and their feed. Corn?’ he says, letting off an exasperated expletive.
Though just 31-years old, Darnaud wears his old-fashioned insistence that meat, its provenance and treatment deserve respect with an unexpectedly mature – even cocky – confidence that comes from having trained from the start with the very best in the business including Michel Bras and Arnaud Daguin.
And customers – including the Philippe Starcks and David Lynch who are clients of Darnaud’s private catering and consultancy – are responding. All day, regulars stream in from the neighbourhood and greater Paris to inspect the day’s cuts from grass-fed Aubracs and the like, or to pick up some house-made basting fat infused with herbs and spices.
Darnaud is particularly enthusiastic about mature animals for their deeper flavours, colours and textures. ‘Last week, we got an 11-year old cow from a farm in north-west France. The meat isn’t fatty because they move all the time from prairie to prairie. I am constantly discovering different parts of the animal that can be interpreted into tasty food. I want to encourage people to think differently about cooking, local farming, and how they use the animal.’
Consider us duly converted to the cause.