Ask chef Nicolas Isnard of Auberge de la Charme who taught him the most when he was learning to cook, and he cites chef Gilles Goujon. Isnard spent three years working under the three-star French Michelin chef at Auberge du Vieux Puits, in Fontjoncouse. “He can create and transform almost anything to something great,” Isnard says. “The way he cooks his food and the flavors are simply impeccable.”
The same can be said for Isnard, who in 2009, less than a year after opening Auberge de la Charme, was awarded a Michelin star. (He also met his co-chef David Le Compte at Vieux Puits, and the two have made a dynamic team, along with pastry chef Cécile Sagory.)
Originally from Hyères in the south of France, Isnard, like many a young chef, learned his way around the kitchen from his grandmother, who in this case happens to be Italian. Experimenting with creating his own dishes from a young age, Isnard began his career in the kitchens of two Michelin-starred Relais & Châteaux properties before heading to the two-star La Rotonde, in Lyon. By the time he was 25, he was working with Goujon at the Auberge du Vieux Puits and at 27 was chef at Château de Curzay, the same year he was awarded the “Young Talent” award in the Poitou-Charentes region by the Gault Millau guide.
In addition to the Auberge, Isnard and Le Compte launched two bistros in the city of Dijon, La Taverne des Halles and Bistrot des Halles, where the food is informal but big on imagination, and the freshest ingredients are used. The menu features dishes like a burrata di bufala with a concasse of tomatoes and other Mediterranean vegetables, and a shrimp cannelloni. Isnard also wrote the book L’œuf (The Egg) with David Le Compte. And at the Auberge, he puts his thoughts about creative ways to cook the egg into action, with dishes like oeuf en croute truffé (the truffle crust is made from porcini mushrooms), served with asparagus.