DQS

The Rebel Butcher of Paris

49-year-old Yves-Marie Le Bourdonnec, often named as one of the luminaries of the slice-and-dice world of French butchery, along with his frenemy Hugo Desnoyer, has as many titles as there are ways to carve a cow: “the bohemian butcher,” “the king of butchers,” and, as he has called himself, “the angry butcher.” Simultaneously exalted and deemed an outcast, Le Bourdonnec was expelled in 2012 from La Confédération Française de la Boucherie, the French butchers’ federation, for proclaiming that British cattle breeds produce the best beef in Europe.

49-year-old Yves-Marie Le Bourdonnec, often named as one of the luminaries of the slice-and-dice world of French butchery, along with his frenemy Hugo Desnoyer, has as many titles as there are ways to carve a cow: “the bohemian butcher,” “the king of butchers,” and, as he has called himself, “the angry butcher.” Simultaneously exalted and deemed an outcast, Le Bourdonnec was expelled in 2012 from La Confédération Française de la Boucherie, the French butchers’ federation, for proclaiming that British cattle breeds produce the best beef in Europe.

His shop in Paris’s 16th arrondissement and social media accounts are regularly targeted by animal rights activists. At the same time, he has many high-profile clients, counting among them Mick Jagger, Pharrell Williams, aging French rocker Johnny Hallyday, and Michelin-starred chefs Alain Ducasse and Guy Savoy.

Le Bourdonnec’s most ambitious project, however, is taking him beyond the profile of a traditional butcher. Over the last decade and a half, he has worked to cross little-used 19th-century French breeds with British stock, engineering what he believes will be the perfect cow.

Le Bourdonnec seems to embrace every aspect of being a butcher, from working with his producers up to making the sale, citing an obligation to “tell stories” about the meat to educate consumers. The typical French client, for example, will say that they want lean meat, Le Bourdonnec said. But this isn’t what they actually want: As he has said repeatedly — in his TEDx talk, “In Search of the Ideal Steak,” and Steak (R)evolution, a documentary in which he goes in search of the world’s best steak — people want meat that is “tendre et goûteuse” (tender and tasty). Tenderness requires that the animal be low in collagen, which means it should be slaughtered young, and taste comes from a balanced fat profile, which is largely genetic — thus Le Boudonnec’s battle to create a new breed of super (delicious) cows.

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