If you have ever longed for the luxurious textures and flavors of pâté de foie gras, the inimitable aromas of truffles, or searched for duck breasts at the grocery store, you can thank Ariane Daguin, founder and CEO of D’Artagnan, for putting these gourmet foods on the shelves at Safeway, Giant, Dean & DeLuca, and hundreds of other stores.
Like Julia Child, Daguin changed the culinary landscape in America with D’Artagnan, her ground-breaking gourmet food products company founded in 1985. When she started, D’Artagnan was the first purveyor of game and foie gras in the country, and for decades her company held the distinction of being the only company selling these rare products. D’Artagnan’s leadership put the company at the forefront of a sea change in American attitudes towards food quality, sustainability, food chain vulnerability, and alarm concerning the practices of large industrial animal farming operations.
A Culinary Pace Setter
Daguin is a visionary entrepreneur with the heart and soul of a French chef. Raised on fine cuisine and regional specialties that are gastronomic symbols of her birthplace in Gascony in southwest France, she has foie gras in her veins. Preceded by generations of family that were Michelin-starred chefs, Ariane instinctively understood the importance of using only the finest cooking ingredients from the time she was a child in her family’s kitchen. The culinary integrity instilled in her by her father and grandfather was, and continues to be, the driving force behind her steadfast dedication to quality and insistence on selling organic, hormone and antibiotic-free products, and humanely raised meats.
An Accidental Vanguard
What started by accident when Daguin took a part-time job working for a pâté producer in upstate New York, was the inspiration for D’Artagnan’s founding in 1985. She slowly grew the fledgling business into a successful company just as Americans’ palates were becoming more sophisticated and their demand for luxury foods increased. In addition, there was an up swell of concern about the quality of animal feed, their quality of life, and more humane slaughtering in abattoir.
The Growth of Farm-to-Table
By the 1990s, consumers were insisting on buying humanely produced gourmet products – D’Artagnan’s distinct approach – and their growing need for more suppliers reached critical mass. The nexus of these simpatico trends caused the company to expand significantly and spurred the growth of regional cottage industries of artisanal producers in the Midwest, up and down the East Coast, and the Hudson Valley in upstate New York.
As Daguin developed alliances with suppliers, collaborated with them on their husbandry, placed special orders for custom produced items, and encouraged their commitment to more holistic foods, she played a significant role in the growth of the farm-to-table national movement. When describing the process she said, “Over thirty years we have developed a model for us. On one side, the sourcing side, is to create groups of farmers that adhere to our philosophy and specifications for all natural, no hormones or antibiotics, humanely raised, organic, and free range.” Her system has worked splendidly, is scalable, and today, D’Artagnan is the nation’s leading purveyor of organic poultry, game, foie gras, pâtés, sausages, smoked delicacies, and wild mushrooms. With Ariane Daguin at the helm, D’Artagnan continues to set high industry standards for quality and safety.
Wisdom and Charm are Key Ingredients in Success
It’s rare in the business world to find a hugely successful entrepreneur with the charm of a French host, but Daguin has a disarming ability to make you feel at ease, as if you’ve been friends for a long time. Nevertheless, her commanding presence never lets you forget she is an expert in her field. Ariane Daguin has nurtured her company into a financial juggernaut valued at $96 million dollars. Her unique formula for business success has placed her at the pinnacle of the culinary world, and still she is steadfast about her commitment to community and the role of women in food.
She is a member of The Daily Meal Council, “an assembly of respected chefs, restaurateurs, writers, purveyors, food historians, and others who play key roles in the food world. In addition, Daguin is founding president of Les Nouvelles Mères Cuisinières, “an international association of prestigious women chefs;” is involved in The American Institute of Wine & Food and Women Chefs and Restaurateurs; and is on the board of City Harvest, an anti-hunger non-profit in New York City. Her honors and accolades include:
· Awarded the French Legion d’Honneur in 2006
· Received the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from Bon Appétit Magazine in 2005
· Recognized in 1994 by The James Beard Foundation, “Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America”
The future of D’Artagnan is secure and Daguin’s passion for nothing but the best quality is at the core of her philosophy. As she firmly states, “No matter what, we will not compromise. There is a reason we didn’t go into cheese, and fish, and groceries, and stuff like that. We cannot do everything right. We are proud of what we are doing and we hope to do it to the best of our ability.”