The day I met Jean-Marie Baudic in Brittany and totally fell for his "cuisine"... (and the chef)

Life is always filled with surprises. Some are bad. Some are good. It’s so nice to remember the good ones.

In 2003, I was diagnosed with cancer. In August 2004, I was barely beginning to recover from surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Since I was not feeling too good in July, at least not good enough to celebrate my birthday properly, we decided to wait until August which we would spend in Brittany as usual.

Someone told us about a young chef who was working in Saint-Brieuc, not too far away from our place. Everybody was singing his praises. A young chef on his way to ‘stardom’.

Popeye invited a few friends and we went to the restaurant where he was working. I was feeling awfully tired and not really up to eating.

As soon as the meal started, I started feeling better and better and better.

Do not ask me what we ate. All I remember is that everything turned out to be delightful. Delightful? Magical is a better word to describe what turned out in our plates.

The chef, Jean-Marie Baudic, had been told about me and he was very eager to make me happy. To tell the truth, while I was eating my first ‘real’ meal in many months, I started feeling like the Danish villagers in “Babette’s Feast”. Delighted and so happy.

Months went by. Every time we were in Brittany, we’d go back to the restaurant where he was officiating. And we’d leave so happy, so delighted again and again. Never disappointed. Not once.

Then Cancer #2 struck... I kind of put Jean-Marie away in a small box called “If”... My life was too tough then to even think about eating.

When I surfaced from this nightmare, I found out that Jean-Marie had opened his own restaurant: “Le Youpala Bistrot” in Saint-Brieuc.

We went there of course, the very minute I started feeling better. Quite a pleasant surprise. Not a big restaurant but a small place amazingly very cheerful and comfy.

There was no menu. The waiter smiled at us and told us that we had to trust the chef who had prepared quite a few surprises for our dinner.

 This meant that every morning, Jean-Marie improvised a new menu from his daily trip to the market or from what his local suppliers (fishermen and truck farmers) brought him.

You’d think this is an awful lot of work, not knowing exactly what you’ll be fixing the following day when you own a restaurant. Not having a menu, the same one more or less every day for a couple of months at least. Not working with static recipes.

No daily routine at the Youpala.

Actually Jean-Marie loves having fun and for him, cooking has to be playful... He is a little bit like a child when he opens his toy box after waking up.

Old toys become brand new once they are discovered again in the morning. New games can be made up from scratch.

Well, this is the way Jean-Marie works.

And the result is pure magic.

From the beginning to the end of the meal.

Eating at the Youpala is a lot like taking a trip to Wonderland.

Don’t misunderstand me. The guy and his team are likeable and fun but they work hard, really hard to renew this magical feast day after day.

For us, a gourmet meal is a work of art. Really. A little bit more fleeting than a painting but still a work of art.

Do you remember the movie “My Best Friend’s Wedding”? Julie Roberts aka Julianne Potter is a restaurant critic. The beginning takes place in a posh restaurant.

Chefs do appreciate their customers’ feedback. “Please, tell the chef this course is awesome. The blend of those flavors is wonderful, etc., etc.”

End of digression. Back to Jean-Marie.

Every time we go to the Youpala, we know we are in for a wonderful meal. An incredible experience. Something to talk about all the way home.

This summer was very frustrating because his restaurant was full every night.

We managed to make reservations for the night before we were leaving Les Tertres.

Actually I am not complaining. It’s always better to wait for such a  gorgeous experience...

Of course, the minute we sat down, Jean-Marie came out of his kitchen with a smile and a cheerful wave to let us know that he was happy to see us. Then back to his kitchen.

“Babette/Jean-Marie’s Feast” was about to start.

I won’t be able to tell you exactly what we ate because every course is a fabulous blend of many products and spices.

Here are a few (not very good) pictures though...

Gilted bream, langoustine, striped mullet, razor clams either in tempura or carpaccio. Ceps, all kinds of tomatoes, peas, fennel, salicornia, black radish, beans, etc. 

All this slightly cooked in delicious herb bouillons or lightly fried in tempura. One wonderful blend of flavors and aromas, sweetness and spices, tender morsels and crunchy bites. And extremely yummy desserts.

One unforgettable meal again... because of the excellent ingredients which Jean-Marie cooks so well but also because of the memories we took home... Those moments of pure happiness and delectation.

We are going back to the Youpala on Saturday night. I can hardly wait. 

Isn’t it wonderful that there are people like Jean-Marie Baudic? People filled with passion and inventiveness. True artists who know how to make you happy, really happy even when life is not this much fun sometimes.

(To my readers who will go through Northern Brittany and stop at Saint-Brieuc, do not forget to make reservations at the Youpala. It is quite famous now and it boasts one star in the Michelin Guide. Reservations are a must... As I said before, Jean-Marie is on his way to stardom. He deserves it.)

*Good Luck, and Good Night*

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