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Joel Dupuch conjures the stars and star tables

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In the Dupach family, oyster farming has been passed down from father to son for seven generations. A tradition of quality that has enabled Les Parcs de l’Impératrice to win the most prestigious tables.

This is a fight with his father, who took him away from his passion, oyster farming. That was in 1982. Joel Dupuch left everything behind: his beloved peninsula, Cap Ferret, and the family business where he worked, heading straight to Martinique to become commercial director of the Trois Rivieres rum brand.

Back in Bordeaux, he would start his own business: a shop selling oysters, followed by a chain of restaurants, the sparkling Le Bistrot de l’huître, at eight addresses in France. Seven years later, the phone rings: Initially, it was his father who wanted his son to take over the business. He agrees, but the pressure is too great. “The company has become one of the biggest in the Archachon basin,” says the oyster farmer. Young Dupach felt like the skin of a nobleman who would have inherited a family castle, he said. “The responsibility was heavy,” he says.

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The Dupuches have been oyster farmers for seven generations

But his work, he knows. The Dupuches have been oyster farmers for seven generations, a knowledge passed down from father to son. As a brother … his brother is also an oyster farmer in Brittany. Joel learned everything in the village of Les Jacquets. At the age of 12, he was already helping load baskets of oysters onto trucks, building a rugby player’s physique from his other passion, 1.87m. The rich waters of the basin keep no secrets from him except that the work has changed.

At the antipodes of the “kings in the shell.”

By the 1980s, oyster farmers had become the “kings of the shell.” In other words, they entered into the logic of absolute productivity, swearing by tonnage alone. There is no question of getting stuck in this crazy productivity race. The perfect shape and size of the shell, he doesn’t mind. He is interested in the inner shell where quality is concentrated.

“It was Bordeaux chef Jean-Marie Amat who inspired him to taste the product as an oyster farmer alone. [il connaissait] Wrong in the end,” he admitted. Her favorites? Meaty oysters. “I only produce what I like!” He adds. Another specialty: at home, they offer subtle flavors with a nutty, nutty mouthfeel. “Discovering new flavors with every bite,” he boasts.

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We source from top breeders

His secret? Its strict upstream selection. “We favor 3- to 5-year-old mature oysters from the best breeders in the region, not only from Brittany and Normandy, but also from Spain, Portugal and Ireland,” he explains. They then mature in two to six months in 2 hectare parks. Where are the most fertile waters of the basin concentrated? “Oysters are infused with a special ingredient that makes them wild. »

Another important step: hardness, in special parks, they train to develop their muscles. “So once they come out they won’t scream and break the water!” He said. Refining, sorting and packaging: more than 50 manipulations are required to guarantee quality production.

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Three of its varieties have topped the popular charts

The result: the three varieties it offers – “Classic”, Light, Iodized, “Special”, whose meat index is about 15%, and the “Pearl” at the top of the range favored by Marion Cotillard – have conquered the most. Famous tables, from the Comptoir du Relais d’Yves Camdeborde, recently sold to Bruno Doucet, to the two-star Michel Rostang. They are also exported to the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Thailand and the Philippines.

This morning you should have seen him in khaki boots, hustling at 7 a.m. in the basins to raise oysters and make 40 baskets for customers in Denmark. While 95% of them are restaurateurs, exports represent only 15% of its turnover.

“It’s a choice,” says the 67-year-old oyster farmer – star friend Played himself in Guillaume Canet’s “Les Petites Mouchoires” – anxious to control his growth. “It should not exceed 10% per year,” he assures. At his Empress Park, he sells 300 tons of oysters a year. With one ambition: to sustain artisanal production. Word of the oyster farmer!

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