Growing up in Burgundy
By Chef Ludo Lefebvre
As a young kid growing up, I was always surrounded by wonderful food and good wine. From family gatherings to parties after our rugby games as a teenager, eating and drinking all day was always at the center.
I was born and grew up in Auxerre, a small city in the northern part of Burgundy. It is surrounded by pastoral scenery, winding country roads with medieval villages along the way, and vineyards for miles. Burgundy as a whole is, of course, known for its incredible terroir that produces beautiful wine as well as the many regional dishes that feature this wine as their base. Auxerre in particular focuses on Chablis, and I developed a passion for wine in general, but especially this delicious Burgundian white wine from a young age.
My grandmother was an amazing cook, and the whole family was invited to her house every Sunday for lunch. Every week, she made roasted chicken and potatoes, and I remember watching the way she hosted everyone and the joy of bringing people together through food.
As a kid, I learned so much from Mamie. She would cook every day for Papie and would let me help in the kitchen. I learned many dishes with her, but the specialties were Ham Chablisienne and Escargots Bourgogne. She would always have different cheeses and vin de table (usually Chablis or other Burgundy wine, of course), and we spent time gathering around the table and celebrating life every day.
The lifestyle in Burgundy as a whole is really about celebrating life, love, friends, and family. The culture of the community is very different than in the US. Your friends will stop by your house at the end of the day uninvited just to see you and have a glass of wine, and after you might invite them to stay for dinner or cheese. Every weekend, someone invites you for dinner or lunch, and you drink vin de table all day and with every meal.
When I was a teenager, my friends and I played rugby, and after each game, win or lose, we had a big party to celebrate. In the morning, we would focus and play our game. But in the afternoon, we would drink all day while the adults played their games, and at the end of all of them, we would go down to the wine cave at my grandparent’s house and throw a party. Sometimes my grandpa would come and drink with us, do some shots of tequila, and join in the fun. What happens in the wine cave, stays in the wine cave!
Growing up around the restaurant business also developed my passion for wine. I started working very young at 13 years old which meant I was always around food, wine, and watching how they go together. When I was 15 years old, I did my apprenticeship under Marc Meneau and outside of cooking itself, he taught me so much about cuisine as a whole, has greatly influenced my career.
The rural lifestyle of Burgundy creates a really special atmosphere that focuses on food and drink at every turn. Growing up in Auxerre really influenced me to become a chef and develop this deep-rooted love for good food and wine. Pick up a bottle of vin de table and as we say in Burgundy, glou glou glou!