In Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey, good weather

Wild, Isabelle Foncel? “Wild“, admits the breeder who loves the outdoors, like her pigs. To tame him, we had to show his credentials. Patrick Lopez, to soften the angles. They met years ago. Patrick was second in the kitchen at Five Seas in Cannes. The chef at the time, Arnaud Tabarec, had started a process of researching local products.

full scale

“The first time we came to the farm, we stayed there all morning. We needed it to understand things better. Because, mainly, that you can’t have what you want to ask for. you”insists Patrick, who is now head of Chai in Cannes.

It’s because here, in this steep corner of Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey, 800 meters above sea level, Isabelle Foncel’s Gascon black pigs, spotted black pigs and free-range pigs live more than ten months almost -autonomously, in the open air. air.

scratch the floor

And that brushes its back on the grass, and that takes a comfortable nap in the shade of a tree and that looks for acorns with the tip of its elongated snout, and that scratches the ground… By their presence, limited to about thirty heads per two hectares, “they also maintain the site,” notes Isabelle.

We are a long way from battery intensive agriculture. Agribusiness that no longer respects the natural rhythm of animals.

Outdoors. Time here, and as is often the case with good food, is very important: “If we let the pigs grow for less time, four and a half months for example, as on industrial farms, we would only get fat”, said the breeder. So it’s not really the kind of house to rush things. Isabel smiles. She retraces the path taken.

Before Saint-Vallier, before her Les Cochons de la Côte d’Azur operation, she ran companies. of plumbing. Safe. From the pub

Small mill flour

She wanted to raise a pig – “this super smart animal” – In her place. “Rillettes (first in line) was bored so I got another pig and they made babies.”

Here it is: breeding starts in 2014, year of the pig. Not in Chinese astrology, but in Isabelle. Placed under the sign of love for animals, above all. To the firstborn, she gave small names. Then she stopped. Very difficult then.

Also, she pampers them just the same. She feeds them exclusively with certified organic food, bran and white flour ground in a small mill in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. Zero antibiotics. In this very manual operation, powered only by solar energy, where only rainwater and spring water are used, the piglets are never separated from the mother. “Here they suckle for up to four months. In industrial livestock, they are weaned after one month.”

So many attentions that make a difference, then. in Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey, it’s not about producing too much, Isabelle works only to order. Private ones. Those of good restaurants – La Passagère in Belles rives, in Antibes; The Canon at Nice. The wholesaler Balicco and the municipality of Mouans-Sartoux are also interested in this virtuous farm for school feeding, all organic since 2012.


Around the Saint-Vallier-de-Thiey pig, ideas are jostling in the head of the head of Chai, at Le Suquet, in Cannes, Patrick Lopez. In fashion “pulled pork”, shredded, with juniper. In home-dried filet mignon… Finally a hay-smoked pork chop recipe, with creamy polenta flavored with eucalyptus and olive trees – “trackers that allow us to project ourselves in the place where the pigs grow” – which he offers us.
A simple, effective and local dish, like this chef who worked at Bistrot de l’Hermitage, Le Five Seas, Le 3.14 and the tables at Fétisson in Mougins.

Ingredients for two people:

– Two beautiful pork chops (about 250 g each)
– A clove of garlic
– Thyme
– Two butter buttons, olive oil
– 100 g of polenta (cornmeal)
– 500 ml milk (semi-skimmed or whole)
– 5 g of dried eucalyptus leaves, 5 g of elderflower and 5 g of olive leaves (the chef takes the dried herbs from L’Or des Plantes, at the Forville market in Cannes).
– 100 g of parmesan
– Beef broth (ready or to be prepared, see tip)
– A square of 90% dark chocolate
– Two handfuls of organic hay (at organic stores or pet stores)

Cooked Corn Meal

Boil the milk. Once it boils, add the dried herbs. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and cover for 5 minutes. Filter. Return the flavored milk to a boil. When it boils, add the polenta and stir. Turn off the heat when it has a very creamy consistency. To schedule.

pork ribs

Season the pieces with salt and pepper. Heat some butter and a drizzle of oil in a pan, add the crushed clove of garlic and a few sprigs of thyme to flavor the butter. Cook the ribs over low heat for ten minutes on each side, basting regularly with cooking butter using a spoon. The ribs should be brightly colored.

The sauce

Add the dark chocolate square to the meat juice (about ten tablespoons), heating everything in a pan.

smoking and dressage

Reheat the polenta in the pan, adding a knob of fresh butter and the Parmesan. Smoke the ribs (see below) with the hay for 5 minutes. Place the polenta on the bottom of the plate. Then the pork chop. Drizzle with the sauce. You can, like the chef, decorate your plate with mustard and grilled buckwheat.

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