Asheville’s culinary scene is rich with cultures: Italian, Indian, Mediterranean, Ethiopian. And, for 13 years, French.
Bouchon is Asheville’s longest-standing French eatery and, thanks to its founder, perhaps its most authentic. The farm on which Michel Baudouin grew up just outside Lyon, France, has been in his family for more than two centuries; farm-to-table ethics with French style are practically inherent to his bloodline.
So when Baudouin decided to relocate from Texas to Asheville (“I had enough of the climate,” he remembers), his resolution to open a French, farm-to-table restaurant was absolute. Employing his experience from previous Texan restaurant ventures, French culinary escapades, and our own Appalachian farm culture, Bouchon was born.
Baudouin was determined to continue to promote the Asheville area’s local farms, even outside his own restaurant, so he helped found the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association. Working closely with the Convention Visitor’s Bureau, Baudouin and AIR have helped boost Asheville’s farm-to-table reputation. “The CVB created a campaign promoting what many of us started to build with farms,” he says. “And while they attracted new visitors, it also attracted new restaurateurs who appreciated our culture.”
Today, Baudouin and the team at Bouchon—including head chef Austin Tisdale—continue to promote local farms through their traditional dishes. “It is important that you explain to the farmers what you can use so they don’t over-grow or waste, especially with a short shelf-life product like produce,” Baudouin says. “I work with two farms: My neighbor in Leicester, Anthony Cole in Jasperwood Farm, who every year has expanded the variety of produce from bell peppers only at first, to now tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, butternut and turnips. Our other friends, Tim and Margaret at Fork Mountain Farm in Madison County, grown a different variety of beans, lettuces, eggplant, herbs, squash, fennel, ginger, cherry tomatoes and more. Plus, the different local creameries where we source 90% of our cheeses.”
Though, as is common with farm-to-table fare, you’ll see some seasonal changes on the menu, you’ll also always find the classics. Directeur Générale Shannon McNally recalls one summer when they opted to replace the lobster ravioli with a lighter dish: “There was an uproar from the customers,” she recalls. “It was back on the menu within weeks.”
Bouchon has a large population of regulars, and those regulars are passionate about their favorite dishes—like the Chicken Cordon Bleu. Chef Tisdale shares the recipe for you to make at home. “But they’ll have to come in for the fries,” he adds with a grin.