Antoine Cantarel grow up in the Bordeaux area and in a family where food was entirely part of his lifestyle. Taking the time, enjoying the process of choosing the ingredients, shopping around, sometimes harvesting, pairing the wines (how can you not when leaving in the Bordeaux area!), all these time spent around food lovers and playing around at the family farm where a centuries old wood-fired oven still was the pillar of lots of dishes during summer gatherings oriented Antoine’s professional life. After moving to the US in 1997 to complete a degree in Hotel management, he worked in various companies, mainly on the East coast till one day, the hotel he was part of the management team had the idea of installing a wooden fire oven. Being in charge of the project, he discovered a French company manufacturing exactly what he was looking for. Long story short, Antoine founded The Bread Stone Ovens Company, now established in Dallas , TX and developed an extensive knowledge of traditional wood fired cooking.
We usually associate pizza and bread to this type of cooking, but lots of other dishes can benefit the wood fire cooking. Think of it as a way to stimulate our senses along one day. The whole process start with the vision of a fire, its cracks, its smell. The type of wood will influence the taste. Then time starts its contribution... The oven needs time to warm up to the perfect temperature as each dishes needs to be cooked at a specific temperature during a specific time. The interior of the oven, made of refractory bricks accumulates and maintain the temperature. Once the oven has reached it, no more wood is burned, it’s either pushed on the side or no more reactivated.
Each dishes is then loaded, turned around, noises, smells evolved in the mixing of food and wood. Tasting and feeling comes later around a good table. Great company, good food are amongst the best recipes for happiness and a whole day can pass by to reach these magical moments. In order to share its passion, Antoine Cantarel organizes cooking classes, mainly for pizzas and bread cooking for now. But if you follow his blog, you’ll be able to discover how to make a traditional French quiche, potatoes au gratin, shirred eggs, apple tarte, wood fired empanadas and much more.
Again this type of cooking needs obviously time and passion, the right oven will make it even more enjoyable. The good news is that more and more restaurants and professionals are embracing these methods of cooking, going back to a more traditional approach. Also, if you’re the one shopping on farmers markets you might even experience tasting dishes made from a mobile trailers equipped with one of Antoine’s wood-fired oven. Once hooked... keep tantalizing your five senses!
Editor-in-chief and founder of the Frenchman Mag.