Standing around a table in the reserve, four butchers, white caps on their heads, cut pork tripe into thin strips.
After having threaded them, using a string inside the casing of the andouillette, 300 thick white puddings are cooked in large pots over a wood fire, bathed in a herb marinade. This traditional recipe, the Autran pass it down from father to son as a well-kept secret since 1901, the date of opening of their butcher’s shop. “When I am asked to dissect the manufacturing steps of our flagship product, I no longer know where to start, as the recipe seems obvious to me”, spontaneously admits Patrick Autran in a very pronounced Provençal accent. “I’ve been making it since I was sixteen. It takes a lot of my time and energy, but working is never a chore, rather a pleasure”.
At the beginning of the XXe century, it was Patrick’s great-grandfather, Jean-Baptiste Autran, whose parents were sharecroppers, who decided to write the first page in the history of this Callian delicatessen, which has become an institution.
From fathers to sons
Historically, trade was first established in rue du Vallat, at the other end of the small village of 3,000 inhabitants. But the building collapsed in the 1920s and the Varois took up residence in a shop on rue de Fayence.
In 1938, the Autran butcher shop was born as the locals know it. If the narrow entrance to the deli is not surprising, the back room looks more like a country house. The cold rooms overflowing with cuts of beef and pork adjoin a workshop which opens onto a small tree-lined courtyard. The Autran family has always lived in an apartment on the first floor, above the cramped room reserved for welcoming customers. “At the time, the animals were slaughtered in the butchery. Today, there are hardly any slaughterhouses left in the region, so I bring my meat from Allier”specifies the butcher.
The store remained open during World War II and soon it was Patrick’s grandfather’s turn to take over.
“At 23, he was still studying and would have liked to be a teacher. So he took over the family business reluctantly, but he got used to it. Butchery has always been a religion for us. Our know-how is transmitted from generation to generation”.
On the plate of starred restaurants
In 1977, young Patrick, born in Grasse in 1961, took the same path as his ancestors.
“I have always loved watching my father and my grandfather work the meat, prepare the stuffing, the offal. When I left school at sixteen, I therefore did not ask myself any questions, my destiny was already drawn. My grandfather wanted me to continue my studies, frustrated at having had to abandon his, but I liked the food trades”.
In 2004, Patrick Autran was rewarded by the famous gastronomic guide Gault & Millau for the quality of his pork andouillettes pulled with a string (in the old fashioned way).
His visit to the capital boosted the image of his butcher’s shop. Soon, a few Parisian bistros are asking to receive their old-fashioned andouillettes, “exceptional” according to netizens.
The Paul Bert bistro in the XIe arrondissement or Arpège, Alain Passard’s starred gastronomy, in the 7the are part of. The establishments in the area also love them: Le Bellevue in Callian, the brasserie Le Victor-Hugo and the bistro Chez Gaston in Saint-Raphaël (to name but a few) regularly list these essentials on their slate.
“I was right to keep this recipe that has survived the ages: my customers sometimes travel a hundred kilometers to taste them”.
But it is also thanks to the audacity and creativity of this eternal butcher that his products are still so successful: head cheese, Provençal caillettes, merguez, chipolatas “bomba” with Espelette pepper, olives, curry , pistou and even pastis make up its stalls.
“I try to innovate, I try, I dare”chuckles the Varois.
On 6 November, Patrick Autran will once again be placed in the spotlight for the traditional Callian andouillette sausage festival.
On the program: a procession in the village in the company of the gastronomic Brotherhood of Le Val and a huge barbecue banquet all day long.