Cédric Béchade honed his craft at the finest establishments and could have pursued a lofty path of technically sophisticated cuisine. Instead, he chose to settle in the Basque Country as an environmentally conscientious innkeeper.
"For two years, my cooking has been almost entirely free of industrially produced ingredients. Only a tiny percentage remains and I strive every day to eliminate that completely.” Cédric Béchade fervently proclaims his commitment to his adoptive land, the Basque Country, and the people whose cause he defends, alimentary artisans. And when he speaks of ingredients, he also means “secondary products,” like cooking oil, flour, sugar. “I rediscovered rapeseed and sunflower oils through an agricultural cooperative, Nouste Ekilili, that fights for sustainable agriculture based on small-scale farming,” he says. Though he has not renounced his stellar career, including collaboration with greats like Alain Ducasse, eleven years ago he felt the need to get back to the roots of his education. “I have to be close to the ingredients and those who produce them, otherwise I’m just not happy,” he says. “My instincts, my insides, need to be a part of everything I serve.” In the Basque Country, this Limousin native has found a land of deeply rooted culture and identity, with near-dormant agriculture that he has helped reawaken by cutting out middlemen. In doing this, he and his wife Marion have also briskly guided their clientele into a world of responsible dining: no more out-of-season fruit, forget so-called “noble” fish if they’re under threat of extinction. Nature herself dictates his menus. He doesn’t know from one week to the next if he’ll have this or that ingredient – he stays flexible, he adapts. “I want to be an ambassador, an apostle, to talk about this with our guests, to convey what the producer expresses,” he affirms. “Chefs are awarded stars, but for what? Our duty should be to food itself.