Ariane Daguin was born into a world of great food in the Southwest of France, into a line of seven chefs. Her father, Chef André Daguin, is famous throughout France for his artistry with foie gras and other Gascon specialties. Ariane herself was expert at deboning ducks, rendering duck fat, preparing terrines and cooking game birds by the time she was ten. She was immersed in a world some would describe as gourmet, but in the Southwest of France food, wine and a healthy enjoyment of the two are just a way of life.
So a career in food might have seemed natural, but Ariane decided to pursue an academic degree at Columbia University. While working part-time for a New York pâté producer, Ariane was in the right place when the opportunity to market the first domestically produced foie gras presented itself. She and a co-worker pooled their financial resources and love of food to launch D’Artagnan in 1985 as the only purveyor of game and foie gras in the U.S. at the time. Devoted advocates for natural, sustainable and humane production, Ariane and D’Artagnan have been at the forefront of the organic movement in America, pioneering organic, free-range chicken (years before the FDA allowed the word “organic” on the label), and humanely-raised veal, heritage breed pigs, and always small, family-owned and operated farms.
Anthony Bourdain, who worked in the kitchens of New York City for years before rising to fame as a TV personality remembers what the culinary scene looked like before D’Artagnan: “Ariane is a seminal figure in America’s food and restaurant revolution. She began D’Artagnan in 1985 when French chefs were wondering why they couldn’t get the kind of food here that they had back home. I remember the way things were before her — ducks were skinny, frozen, flavorless, gray. But thanks to D’Artagnan, along with foie gras, Americans got all kinds of things. She became a one-woman supply train for every French chef in New York, and consequently any American chef with aspirations to be among the best. And she did all this at the exact moment when American chefs were ready to take off.”
Ariane helped the rise of the American restaurant, the beginning of the farm-to-table movement and the increased awareness of where our food comes from. She has always been a staunch supporter of the American farmer, seeking out small-scale farms with humane and sustainable practices to supply D’Artagnan. In 2005 after two decades of collaboration, Ariane acquired her partner’s share of the company to become sole owner of the company they built together. In 2010, Ariane and D’Artagnan celebrated 25 years of doing business, with a week of food-related events and a great big party.
Over the years, Ariane has become a much-loved personality in the culinary community, inspiring the next generation and sharing her knowledge of and passion for food with everyone she meets. In addition to running D’Artagnan, developing new products and researching innovative and ecologically responsible methods of production, Ariane is founding president of Les Nouvelles Mères Cuisinières, an international association of prestigious women chefs, and she is on the board of City Harvest. Recognized in 1994 by The James Beard Foundation “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America,” Ariane is now a member of the Awards Committee. In 2005, Ariane received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from Bon Appetit magazine, and in September 2006, was awarded the French Legion d’Honneur. She lives in New York City and raised her daughter Alix while building D’Artagnan. Alix, too, wants to use her education to do something outside the food community. Somehow it seems there’s another good story there.