Dear friend, patriarch and founder of http://www.francois-doucet.com/en/
I vividly remember my first meeting with Francois Doucet at the old Duke of York Chelsea barracks in an era when it resembled a village hall, a very far cry from the uber smart Saatchi gallery that it has become. Francois was exhibiting at the “Provence in London” fair, it must’ve been around 1983/4.
I was offered the delicious caramelized almonds and pates de fruits to taste and remarked that I had visited the small town of Oraison where the Doucet’s business has been based since 1969. I chatted away in my schoolgirl French, which was a huge relief to Francois, as his English was scant.
At that time our family have been visiting Haute Provence for 10 years, and my mother had bought a small village house in 1979. We chatted away and I promised to pay a visit next time I was in the area, which I did with great pleasure and was shown around the production and offered more delicious things to taste. In the following years we bought the almonds and other delicious things and sold them at Rococo…
Francois and his family originally came from Montargis, a town famous for its pralines. There was really just one family making the pralines and as a young man François realised he needed to set up on his own in a different part of France. He met and married a young teacher from Mascara, French Algeria (they met during the Algerian war), and together they set up the small production right next to the Almond and apricots trees in the heart of Provence. They had four children. I am one of five, the ages correspond almost exactly to me and my siblings, so the generations have mirrored each other in the Coady and Doucet families.
After James & I had our first child, Fergus, we drove down through France on our very first family holiday, and went to lunch with the Doucets. We tried to invite them to come out to a local restaurant, but they would not hear of it.
We arrived at the factory and were given a royal welcome. Francois had the Champagne on ice, Maggy had roast a gigot d’agneau de Sisteron with a tomato gratin, the wine was a Vacqueyras, and the little prince Fergus had his own layette: a cot with pale blue linen sheets and everything a new baby might need. We felt such warmth from this lovely couple, and that meal was the start of many that we shared, with us hosting in our Provence home in due course. Last May we had a simple lunch in our garden with my mother Sybil, Francois, Maggy, Patrick and Ros Wyatt who we had persuaded to come from London to hear the nightingales sing. Another great meal, fantastic company – simple dishes of white asparagus, radishes, anchoide, local cheese and saussison, Maggy’s unbeatable tarte aux fraises and some very good wines (kindly shared by Patrick). By this stage, Francois had been diagnosed with cancer, and was responding well to the treatments. He continued to have a really good quality of life until the New Year, when things started to deteriorate.
We will remember Francois as an exceptional kind and loving man, chocolatier, pilgrim of the Camino de Santiago de Compostella, generous host, painter, lover of music & avid supporter of the festivals in Forcalquier. He is survived by Maggy, his children Michel, Jean-Marc, Bruno, Marie-Edith, grandchildren Gwenael, Nolwenn, Manon, Thomas, Pierre, Suzanne, Lucie, Judith, Joseph, and great grandchildren Enora, Noemie, Gustave, Léila and Souaad.