Victor Burtin was a great Chef, a forerunner who left his print on XXth century French cuisine.
He traveled throughout Europe to exercise his culinary talent.
He then came back to live in Mâcon, in his native Burgundy, followed by his illustrious clients from all parts of the world.
A short biography
Victor Burtin was born on April 8th 1877, in Paray-le-Monial, deep in the heart of the Charolais region. There, in Southern Burgundy, he started his apprenticeship in the trade with the celebrated Chef Achille Poillot, at the Hôtel des Trois Pigeons.
Victor’s mother herself was a true cordon bleu. Becoming a widow when Victor was only two, she was hired as a cook in the different chateaux of the region.
He wanted to discover our capital city to learn the art of great cuisine. When he arrived in Paris in 1894 he exercised his trade in several restaurants and started it by cooking meals for workers and employees. He had to learn how to make preparations and use products, find the means which corresponded to the price of meals. As he said: ” It was a good thing for later on, because I can say that I Iearned in these broths how to take advantage of everything without using butter…” And then, according to his will to work in the field of high cuisine in celebrated hotels, he knew how to succeed in building the reputation he is known for.
He then worked in Biarritz, Monte Carlo, Aix les Bains, Wiesbaden and later in Berlin where he was, among other things, the Head of Kaiser William II’s receptions. Victor left Germany in 1914 when war was declared.
After his international peregrinations he worked at the Hôtel de la Cloche in Dijon and then in Saulieu in 1920 at the Hôtel de la Poste where his guests will be such personalities as Aristide Briand or Raymond Poincaré.
In 1924 he retired in his native town Paray-le-Monial, where he could have lived in peace and quiet on his income. But this active character was not cut for retirement.
In 1926 Victor Burtin settled at the Hôtel d’Europe et d’Angleterre in Mâcon, which he quickly established as a Mecca of French gastronomy. He stayed there until he met a sudden death on november 1st, 1937.
From 1936 onwards, on the Imperial Airways London route, seaplanes would land on the Saône River on their hydrobase especially installed in front of the hotel, so that meals could be loaded aboard. By air or not, cultural and political figures of the time were happy to make a gastronomic stop at the celebrated place. which was no longer known as Hôtel d’Europe et d’Angleterre, but simply as” Burtin’s”.
A figure of character
At the hôtel d’Europe et d’Angleterre, French minister André Tardieu and Marie Marquet had their own habits in room 101 which was especially alloted to them. One day they came without a reservation, and other guests had been occupying this room for some time. Victor Burtin refused to ask these guests to move when Jean Tardieu asked him to do so. However, Victor was soon to receive the Legion of Honor. The minister threatened to block it. But Victor did not yield to blackmail and answered :”F……off with your legion of Honor, these people are my guests as well as you are.”
He was thus capable of sharply addressing the famous of this world who kept frequenting his table notwithstanding, in order to taste his delicacies.
Somewhere under the stars
In 1926 the celebrated Michelin Guide created his first star to designate the “good tables”. Then at the beginning of the thirties, the second and third star.
Victor Burtin was one of the first 23 chefs to enjoy the top rating of three stars for his hotel in 1933.
Journalist Georges Rozet will declare :”This place is like the Mecca of great French cuisine…”
A few specialties:
• The family pâté
• The Burtin filets of sole
• Pike quenelles with crayfish
• Trout in cream sauce
• Chicken in cream sauce
• The Mère- Grand cutlets
• The famous Burtin entremets
• The Burtin cake and its crepes
• The “beugnotte”, a maconnaise wafer
Victor Burtin would prepare a refined cuisine, while remaining authentic and simple. He highlighted local products from The Bresse and Charolais, or the pike caught in the Sâone.
He put his steps in those of the masters Urbain Dubois and Auguste Escoffier, who paved the way to the 20th-century French cuisine. He would prepare creamy sauces by lightening them to release and emphasize the original flavor of the dishes.
He also had a sense of the dietary balance of a menu,considering that a good meal must be accompanied by a good digestion.
One of his sons, Henri Burtin -educated at his father’s good school- will take over the restaurant after his father’s sudden death at the age of 60. Henri will pass the family torch to his son, Christian Burtin.