Meet the Member: Chef Antoine Westermann of Le Coq Rico
Member news | June 27, 2018
If you're craving authentic French cuisine in New York City, look no further than
Le Coq Rico and Chef Antoine Westermann. The restaurant is a true purveyor of quality, with products that represent the rich terroirs of their origin, and as you may have guessed, the house specialty is poultry. From the region of Alsace, Chef Westermann opened the New York City location of Le Coq Rico in 2012 after a long series of successful endeavors from Alsace to Paris and Portugal. Passionate about sourcing ingredients from the best suppliers along the East coast, he lets the flavors speak for themselves in his pared-down, cuisine to be savored. We asked Chef Westermann a few questions about his restaurant and role in the French-American community: Le Coq Rico seems very conscientious of the origin of its poultry, how do you select the farms with which you work? AW: I started to dream of opening Le Coq Rico in NYC 5 years ago, immediately after the Paris opening. I wanted to share this special cuisine focused around birds with the New York food scene. We met with so many farmers- about 30- before we opened. We have very high standards for our farmer relationships. We only source birds that are raised respectfully and close to the farmer. We want to know everything from hatch to harvest! Our birds are pasture-raised by small farmers (young farmers) and traditional farmers (generation knowledge). They are American heritage breeds- besides one exception, the Brune Landaise (Gallus Domesticus origin like the Bresse Chicken, raised respectfully in Pennsylvania). Our birds are slow growing breeds (aged over 120 days before they are harvested)...meaning they live 3 times longer than a regular chicken (because, as pure breeds, they need that time to get to their maturity). We personally know all of our farmers and we visit the farms regularly. The majority of our birds come from upstate Catskill, Delaware River area, Hudson Valley, Amish Lititz Pennsylvania (our intent is to showcase the American Northeast terroir through wild and noble birds). We also source from Frank Reese (of Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch in Kansas) - but that is because we could not imagine not having his birds on our menu. He is the godfather of poultry farming! Besides ingredients, is there another winning secret to your success?
AW: We source the best American heritage poultry breeds available - and we pay tribute to these birds by doing our best to preserve their unique tastes. We also serve them whole, so that our guests are treated to a feast. The way we prepare our birds is very special. The process really begins with the broth - the broth is made with different poultry bones and meat, as well as some veggies (mainly leek and carrots). We cook the broth down for about an hour at a gentle boil. We then remove the bones, meat, and veggies, and let the broth reduce about 1/3 at a gentle boil. Then we poach the whole bird in the poultry broth for 30 minutes at 80°F. After it has poached, we let the birds rest for another 30 mins. Then we put the bird into the oven and roast for about 45 minutes. The seasoning is very simple - salt and freshly-milled peppercorn. We do not recommend over spicing or seasoning as we want to showcase the real taste of the meat and skin. This slow-cooking process of poaching then roasting ensures that we get the best of the bird's texture and flavor.
In 2006, you asked Michelin to remove your stars to liberate your creativity. Has there ever been a time since that this decision was questioned?
AW: No, this is not a decision that I regret. Receiving 3 stars is a tremendous honor, and it gives you an enormous amount of satisfaction - but it can also put a chef in a very specific mindset. There are certain expectations you need to meet and standards you need to maintain. At that point in my career, I had the desire to do something new and different. Besides this, I had my son saying every day - "yes dad, okay dad" - I wanted to set him free and give him the opportunity to have a restaurant where he can earn his own stars. I went to Michelin and asked them to remove my 3 stars because my son Eric would become the new owner of the restaurant and would start his own cuisine. That is how Eric's wings started to grow. Now he has 1 star from Michelin, and I am able to explore and be creative with new cuisine ideas.
What led you to become a member of the FACC and what is one piece of advice you wish to share with other members?
Le Coq Rico's Brand Ambassador responds: As an ambassador of french gastronomy we are thrilled to be part of this network. We became a member of the FACC to connect with people that can help us grow. It is a chance to get connected with others that share the same values. My advice is to keep and maintain good relations with our partners and always explore resources that the French community can provide you.
Merci Chef Westermann for sharing your passion with us, we can't wait to take a seat at your table.
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