Corsair cuisine in the Bay of Cancale
A journey to flavours from faraway places, with Jérôme and Emmanuel
Jérôme is a food-loving sailor and Emmanuel an ocean-going chef working the spice routes. So it's no wonder that this meeting of minds led to a great idea: to combine gastronomy and traditional sailing aboard the Ausquémé. What better way to spend the lazy days of summer than to sail the enchanting seas of Cancale Bay, and sample the gourmet treasures of buccaneering days ?
The Ausquémé is patiently waiting, anchored in the cove at Port-Mer, and in no time we’ve been ferried across to her by dinghy. The skipper shows us around his boat, whose beautiful hull and rigging stand proudly in the late afternoon sunshine. The Ausquémé, built in 1942 for the dredging of flat oysters in the Morbihan Gulf and the Auray river, the lugger is now both a heritage tall ship, open-air kitchen and ocean-going restaurant. After a short introduction to sailing skills, we're ready to enjoy an amazing new experience, guaranteed to appeal to all our senses.
A gastronomic journey
The wind begins to swell the sails as Emmanuel, who used to work as sous-chef for three Michelin star holder Olivier Roellinger, finishes serving up on the forecastle-turned- range, giving expertly opened oysters a light dusting of peppers from distant lands. Delicious! The combination of flavours from faraway places with those from the Bay of Cancale characterises everything we will sample in today’s 12 ports of call. Emmanuel is passionate about his food and fascinating to listen to, as he explains the whys and wherefores of these delicately balanced dishes. Chance just does not come into it. Hints of spice bring out the fabulous flavours of all sorts of local delights. This is a true summit – albeit on the waves – between the world of ‘corsair’ chef Olivier Roellinger, maritime history, and the traditional foods of the Bay.
A voyage of discovery
Jérôme gently tells us it’s time to swap our forks for sheets (ropes) and make ready to go about as we’re setting off for the lobster pots! Under the skipper’s instructions, Servane takes care of the forward jib while Pierre sorts out the fore sail, and once the ropes are firmly wound it’s time to try the vegetable achard, a dish directly inspired by the goods that travelled in the holds of traditional sailing ships. Pierre asks how it's made, and Emmanuel, as Director of the ‘Ecole Cuisine Corsaire’, or School of Corsair Cookery, is happy to tell us. In fact, with each new dish, Emmanuel lets us in on a few of his tips and techniques, such as how to open oysters, skin tomatoes, or add just the right amount of spice.
Barbecue on board !
Next it’s back to being sailors again, as we jibe and then haul up a lobster pot. The glittering waves part to reveal a spider-crab and a lobster, so it’s time for Jérôme to get the barbecue going. Then, while he waits for the embers to glow, he casts his fishing line. Meanwhile, Emmanuel continues to make our mouths water with tales and tastes of spices such as Roellinger’s Poudre des Alizés (Trade Wind Spices) or Poudre Retour des Indes (Spices from India), which excite both the taste-buds and the imagination. Jocelyne just loves the crab with wild limes, while Elodie adores the velvet-crab soup.
Calling “Ready about?”, the skipper takes over from Simon, who has been proudly standing at the helm, and everyone lends a hand to turn the boat away from the wind. Now we can proceed at a pace that allows safe cooking of the lobster on the barbecue while the nets full of mackerel are hoisted from the depths of the sea.
A treat for all five senses
Keeping perfect time, the setting sun reddens the horizon, while the lobster too changes from blue to red, accompanied by the sound of lapping waves and sighs of appreciation. We enjoy our seafood near Port de la Houle harbour, then, under Jérôme’s instructions, we tack back and forth between the shore and the Ile des Rimains. Our little crew is doing a great job, and in return we are awarded our just desserts – or rather our three desserts! A macaroon with a surprising combination of flavours, spiced up (literally!) seasonal fruit, and an unexpectedly suave coffee cream. As we finally return to our mooring the sky is dark, but the eyes and smiles of our happy crew are still bright and sparkling. We warmly give our thanks and congratulations to Emmanuel and Jérôme, two food-lovers who also love the sea, and already the deserving holders of a tourism trophy.
Text : Annick André
How to book :
Come and join the crew! The Balade Corsaire, or Buccaneer’s Boat Trip, takes place every day from April to October, 10am-2pm or 5pm – 9pm. Advance bookings only.
Bookings can be made via the Cuisine Corsaire Ecole website: http://www.cuisine-corsaire.fr/la-balade-corsaire.php
Departures from Port Mer in Cancale
Why not try …
La Cuisine Corsaire Ecole
Place Saint Méen
35 260 Cancale
Tel : 02 99 89 63 86
The Cuisine Corsaire Ecole, which is part of the world of cooking created by 3 star Michelin chef Olivier Roellinger, offers cookery lessons aiming to teach people all about spices, sea-food, and produce from the kitchen-garden, as well as how to use them.