Meet Christopher Coutanceau, Chef Christopher Coutanceau*** & La Yole de Chris – La Rochelle, France
Updated: Jun 24
Expert 'Fisherman-Cook' and oceans conservation activist, awarded 3 Michelin stars in 2020 along with the Michelin guide’s green emblem for sustainable gastronomy and France's Best Eco-responsible Chef committed to environmental impact in 2019.
Photo by ©phvauressantamaria
Fisherman from father to son, the Coutanceau family has been passing on the 'virus' of sustainable fishing for several generations. Christopher Coutanceau, a passionate angler and sailor, celebrates the Atlantic every day in a delicious way through his cuisine. Deeply committed in raising awareness on the oceans protection and promoting small-scale traditional fishing, he was awarded the prize for the best eco-responsible chef in France by the Michelin Guide in 2019 for his action against electric fishing. In 2020, he was awarded his third star and the green emblem of the guide for his sustainable commitment. Fervent advocate of no-waste cuisine, Christopher believes that every fish caught must be valued and eaten in its entirety, from head to tail.
When he’s not in the kitchen, you will always find him on the water, whether he’s fishing, surfing, sailing, or underwater hunting. Needless to say, the sea is his element and La Rochelle - dubbed 'beautiful and rebellious'- his inspiration.
Today Chef Christopher Coutanceau shares with us his best practices from the ocean to his table.
Welcome Christopher to Chefs for Impact!
By Christopher Coutanceau as told to Chefs for Impact
How will your restaurant look like post-crisis?
“We will surely have to adapt to the post-coronavirus world. Similar to most fine dining restaurants, there is less change in the sense that the tables are already far apart from each other in the dining room. Also, we were already very vigilant before the coronavirus in terms of hygiene, following a strict disinfection protocol.
Our mission is to bring pleasure to people, and we need to provide our client with a safe environment where they can feel reassured and happy. We are going to protect our staff and our customers as best we can to start over and above all, to last.”
3 Michelin stars, Prize of Sustainable Gastronomy and the Michelin's Green icon, you accumulate the rewards! Can you tell us more about your commitment to sustainable gastronomy?
"I've always been taught, whether it's by Chef Joël Robuchon or Chef Michel Guérard, that a great chef uses the best products, and therefore those in season. We only offer seasonal products. Endangered species and those in breeding seasons are obviously banned on our menus. You’ll never find mussels in May in my restaurants!
We use our fishes in their entirety, including the scales, the bones, the heads, and the milt. These are parts that are the best, yet they are often discarded.. The culture and education I received from my grandparents allow me to push my work in that direction.
When you go to a restaurant you want an experience. When you go to La Rochelle, you want to eat seafood with a professional who tells you his passions and a story.”
Sardines 'from head to tail' - Photo by ©phvauressantamaria
What is sustainable fishing?
“Sustainable, reasonable, and eco-responsible fishing means fishing with lines and with lures (with fake fish). For example, it's releasing fish that you don't want because they are too small, which is something my grandfather taught me. We apply a small healing cream before putting the fish back in the water. The hole will re-form in about 2 days, which allows the fish to leave in good conditions and to be able to reproduce and grow. Fish are like vegetables; you don't eat a tomato if it is not ripe.”
Photo by ©Olivier-Roux
Unfortunately, not everyone has access to education and training from a young age, like you did. Do you think that consumer education goes through Chefs?
“Completely. The Chefs are there to arouse envy and to raise awareness. We have the knowledge and skills to educate, but the road is long. Often we are confronted with a lack of knowledge, curiosity, culture, and simply envy. People know land products but products from the sea are less known.
I am currently working on a seasonal product calendar (soon to be published!) with more than 200 species, from seaweed to shellfish and line fish. That book will include tips on how to cook these products. I would like this book to be available in schools and be part of education from a very early age because eating is the essence of the human body. Education on 'responsible eating' must be taught in schools because it is the future for preserving our planet.
Media coverage also allows messages to be conveyed with a wider spectrum. My last appearance on Top Chef in France gave me the opportunity to explain how to cook a fish from head to tail, for example.
On a daily basis, we work as close as possible to the customer and our teams help educate customers in every single discussion.
Do you think people realize that consumption behavior must change?
“Finally, I think that people are realizing that there are artisans right next door to them! But unfortunately, I'm afraid that bad habits will soon return for the sake of simplicity. So yes, there is awareness, but there is still a lot of work to be done.”
Could you give a few tips to all the Chefs around the world for a more sustainable gastronomy?
“Cook seasonal and local.
Reduce food waste by cooking products in their entirety.
Lend credibility and prestige to the so-called "not noble" fish. All species are noble including mackerel or sardines. And to be honest with you, those are the ones I prefer!”
What is your seasonal product?
“We are in the middle of the cuttlefish season here in La Rochelle, a fabulous product!”
Learn more: https://www.coutanceaularochelle.com/en/home/