Chef Didier Durand
A Beach Coast Favorite
By Barbara Voris Eastman
Every Saturday morning from May to October, people line up at the booth of Chef Didier Durand at the Michigan City Mainstreet Association’s Farmers Market. Chef Durand is the owner of two popular Chicago restaurants and has been a regular vendor at the Michigan City market for seven years. What many don’t know is that before he shows up at the Mainstreet Farmers Market, Chef Didier has already delivered his specialty foods to the Riverside Market on East 2nd Street.
Running his restaurants and maintaining his presence at two Michigan City markets can be daunting at times, but Chef Didier enjoys seeing all of his regular customers, many of who have become friends. Dressed in his white chef’s coat and towering toque, Chef Didier offers a wide variety of specialty foods including cheeses, spreads, pates, quiches, soups, heat and eat dinners, cornichons, breads, croissants, and more.
Among his most popular items are his pates, like duck terrine with pistachios, country pate with shallots and brandy, and veal terrine with tarragon and cranberries. Pick up any one of these (or all three) along with a crusty baguette, add a nice bottle of wine, and you’ve got yourself a party without any of the work.
with an Appreciation of Food
Didier Durand was born in the town of Bergerac in the southwest of France. The region is one of the leading gastronomic centers of the country and is famous for its vineyards, ducks, foie gras, truffles, cheeses, and walnuts. It is also a rich agricultural region known for its abundant harvest of vegetables and fruits. So it’s no surprise that Didier would grow up with a love of food. He would accompany his mother to the local markets and was helping her prepare meals for the family by the time he was ten.
Training in Bergerac
At 17 he enrolled in Lycee Hotelier, the famed local cooking school in Bergerac and at the completion of his coursework he went to work for a number of renowned French chefs. Early in his career he took on seasonal work. Summers were spent working along the French Riviera and in the winter he worked in the Pyrenees and the Alps, where the mountains attracted skiers from all over the world. He also worked in Luxembourg and Belgium, and eventually worked in the kitchen of Michel Guerard, a three-star Michelin Chef best known as the chef who brought Nouvelle Cuisine and Cuisine Minceur to the world.
His Move to Chicago
While working for Chef Guerard, he met Carlos and Debbie Nieto of the famed Carlos Restaurant in Highland Park, Illinois. They were vacationing in France and because Didier spoke English he was asked to conduct a tour of Guerard’s kitchen and garden. Didier expressed a desire to come to the US and Carlos gave him his card and told him to call him if he ever made it to Chicago. Didier moved to the US in 1986 and immediately called Carlos who hired him on the spot. He spent three years at Carlos and then went on to work in the kitchens of famed Chicago area restaurants including La Boheme, L’Escargot, Gordon, and Le Perroquette.
A Place of His Own
In 1996 he opened Cyrano’s Bistrot in the River North neighborhood of Chicago. He recently changed the name to Cyrano’s Farm Kitchen and in 2000 he opened a second location on the Chicago River. The second restaurant is called Cyrano’s Café on the Riverwalk and offers diners a lovely river view on lower Wacker Drive.
A Family Affair
Chef Didier met his wife in 1988 at a holiday party at the home of his mentor, Carlos Nieto. Last year Didier proudly became a US citizen. They married in 1990 and Jamie is the wine buyer for both restaurants and acts as hostess on the weekends. She often accompanies him to the Michigan City Farmers Market, as does their 19-year old daughter, Simone. Chef Didier and his family enjoy their Beach Coast home and the friends they have made here. And they invite you to come see them at either of their Chicago restaurants. If you think Chef Didier’s pates and other Farmers Market offerings are to die for, then you’ll really enjoy a meal prepared just for you by this Beach Coast favorite.
The Next Chapter
Several of Chef Didier’s recipes are featured in the Taste section of this issue of The Beach Coast. Can’t imagine where he finds the time, but we are also happy to report that he is busily writing a book, which will be part memoir, part cookbook. The working title is, “Good Food Makes People Happy.” We couldn’t agree more.
546 N. Wells
Café on the Riverwalk
City Mainstreet Farmers Market
Corner of 8th and Washington
Open Saturdays, 8am to 12pm (Chef Didier usually arrives by 8:45)
234 East 2nd St.
Michigan City, IN 46360
Open: Thursday & Friday 10 am to 3 pm
Saturday & Sunday10 am to 3 pm
Click here to
Complete list available at the Michigan City Mainstreet Farmers Market; all but frozen dinners available at Riverside Market; and also available in Chicago at Cyrano’s Farm Kitchen.
Barbara Voris Eastman grew up in Michigan City and moved back to the area after spending nearly 35 years working in Chicago. She is both the editor and a regular contributor to www.thebeachcoast.com.