Chef Profile October 2016: Franck Brétéché, chef/owner of Mange Tout Deli in Downpatrick
Franck Brétéché, chef/owner of Mange Tout Deli in Downpatrick, talks to Sam Butler
Frenchman Franck Brétéché has developed a successful career as a popular chef and owner of the award-winning Mange Tout café/deli in Downpatrick. However, Franck once had his sights set on a career in professional football and was signed to FC Nantes, his hometown club and among the most successful in France, as a striker until illness forced him prematurely to hang up his boots and look for a different career.
Marriage to Tina, a local girl, led him to set up in Northern Ireland more than 20 years ago. The successful couple are currently planning to expand the popular business, located at Down Business Park, and are busy checking out suitable premises for another French-style café/deli/patisserie in the greater Belfast area. Mange Tout currently employs five people in Downpatrick.
Franck first visited Northern Ireland when Gilles, his father, a successful architect in Nantes, was exploring business opportunities here and in other parts of the United Kingdom.
Gilles had hoped that Franck would eventually follow him into the business but his son had other ideas. “I became interested in baking through a close friend whose parents had a bakery near my family home in Nantes,” he says. “I loved the aroma of the freshly-baked croissants and other traditional French bread wafting from the artisan bakery and was impressed by the creativity and skills of the bakers there. My father helped make up my mind by arranging a placement for me in a local bakery. He was hugely supportive and was keen for me to find out as much as possible about the bakery business.”
Encouraged by the experience, Franck then decided to sign up for a culinary/bakery qualification through a course at his local college in Nantes; the main city in the picturesque Pays de la Loire. He subsequently expanded his knowledge and expertise working as a pastry chef in restaurants in Nantes.
After moving to Northern Ireland, he found key roles in the restaurant/catering businesses of top local chefs Paul Rankin and Simon Dougan. “I worked with Paul Rankin for over three years and was then approached by Simon Dougan to join him at Yellow Door,” he says. “I was 10 years at Yellow Door and was involved in most aspects of the café/deli business in Portadown. I learned a huge amount from both Paul and Simon, two very talented and creative chefs who have contributed hugely to the culinary revolution that’s underway here. Both are totally committed to locally-sourced ingredients. Simon has also created one of our most successful and popular catering businesses.”
Experience gained working alongside the two chefs led Franck to set up his own café/deli/patisserie with Tina in Downpatrick. “Setting up my own French-style café in Northern Ireland had been a dream for a number of years,” says Franck. “I wanted to work with the superb local ingredients readily available here and use my experience from back home in France to create a different menu that would include some of the foods popular in Nantes and other parts of the Loire region.”
His brioche loaf, rich in butter, is a good example of a traditional bread recipe from Nantes. And his expertise as a pastry chef there is evidenced by the enticing patisserie range in his extensive deli counter. French patisserie specialities sit alongside traditional Irish apple and rhubarb tarts and crumbles.
“We’ve some wonderful food, especially in Co Down. I am delighted that the quality and provenance of ingredients here is being showcased during the Year of Food & Drink. Northern Ireland should be proud of what the food industry is achieving. On our doorstep in Downpatrick, there’s wonderfully tasty grass-fed beef that we source from Crossgar/Pallas, great pork, superb seafood and the freshest of vegetables and fruit. Our game pies are particularly popular and use exclusively local ingredients.”
He turns to a fellow Frenchman, Patrice Bonnargent of Strangford Harvest in Killough, for his oysters and mussels.
“We’ve built our reputation on this basis and will not be introducing processed, pre-prepared food or bought in buckets of sandwich fillings, for instance, simply to enable us to offer cheap prices. Our focus is on making and selling top-quality artisan dishes – meat, bread, desserts, and luxury food to the public and a small, select group of wholesale customers.”
Catering services are provided for weddings and other events and, as well as an award-winning café, Franck and Tina run monthly bistro nights serving gourmet dishes. His commitment to the business usually involves punching in around 70-80 hours a week in the kitchen/bakery.
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