How his vocation came about
For Eric Sampietro, cooking runs in the family. Grandson of a gourmet cook grandmother and son of a chef with a reputation throughout the département of Gers and beyond, Eric grew up and did his school homework in the kitchen of the family restaurant, La Bonne Auberge. But he probably never suspected for a moment that he would obtain a Michelin star, which came in 2009.
Creating dishes that are full of panache, daring and generosity, Eric is worthy of his Gascony homeland, the region that produced the dashing musketeer D'Artagnan and fine armagnac.
Trained to the exacting standards of hotel school in Toulouse, Eric alternated spells in Gascony with periods perfecting his craft in other gastronomic regions. Setting off to explore the wide world, he surrounded himself with the exotic fragrances of the Lebanon, the tempting flavours of Italy and Spain, the elegance of Oxford and London and even, for six years, the coolness and rain of Quiberon in Brittany, spent in self-imposed exile learning the art of the chocolatier.
With Eric, cooking is all about things that present themselves, spontaneity and spur-of-the-moment ideas. Some fine produce dropped off by one of his suppliers, a last browse round the market before starting work, golden sunlight falling on a vegetable: these can be enough to spur him into a creative mood.
"My aim is to offer a simple, seasonal, market-fresh style of cooking," explains Eric unfussily. Le Point magazine's great restaurant critic Gilles Pudlowski describes his cuisine as, "surprising, disarming and provocative."
The chef's suggestions
His cappuccino of green asparagus and strawberries; his pan-fried veal sweetbreads with cauliflower purée and grilled hazelnuts; and also his daring celery and banana (roast banana, celery julienne and ivory ice cream).
This is superb! La Table des Cordeliers is an 18th-century chapel brought up to date with a sophisticated contemporary décor. Dining chez Eric Sampietro is also a good excuse to wander round Condom, the historical capital of Armagnac, admiring the elegant town houses, typical armagnac architecture and visiting the Musée de l'Armagnac.