As the global health crisis is slowly becoming more under control, entrepreneurship is alive and well. Azureazure’s Nicole Muj has unveiled a new interview series featuring some of the top international entrepreneurs in the areas of food, wine & spirits, art, and design.
In part one, we meet the visionaries behind some of the latest innovations in their respective fields, from France, Christophe Namer of Cardinal du Four, 21 Rébellion Armagnac and Vincent Guiheneuf of Bijoux Macarons.
Christophe Namer, founder, Cardinal du Four, 21 Rébellion
Christophe Namer is an advanced sommelier with a diploma from the International Sommelier Guild. He is also a specialist in spirits certified by both the Wine & Spirits Education Trust and the Society of Wine Educators.
For the past twenty years, Christophe has gained in-depth knowledge of food, wine, and spirits. Born and raised in Aix-en-Provence, France, Christophe’s professional journey in the U.S. has taken him from restaurant co-ownerships to a five-year position as a brand attaché and spokesperson for Grey Goose vodka. He also served as the Western LOUIS XIII Brand Ambassador, sharing his knowledge and passion for the brand through curated VIP events and dinner experiences for high-net-worth clients and top luxury brands. In addition, he is the founder of Cardinal du Four, 21 Rébellion Armagnac.
NM: How did this lead you to start Cardinal du Four, 21 Rébellion?
CN: I decided to take my career to the next level and follow my dreams by starting and creating my own brand of Armagnac called Cardinal du Four, 21 Rébellion (CdF).
NM: What are the inspiration and philosophies of your brand?
The Cardinal du Four experience begins with its namesake. Named after and inspired by the late Cardinal Vital du Four, a French theologian, and philosopher, he was a luminary known for his intellect and remarkable discoveries, including documenting the first evidence of distillation in France dating back to 1310 praising the virtues of Armagnac. His original texts have been preciously guarded and remain today at the Vatican Library archive in Rome since the 16th century. Cardinal Du Four is a vibrant spirit housed in a new custom-made glass decanter with a red galvanized and lacquered metallic closure shaped like that of a Cardinal’s miter (typical headdress of a bishop or abbot). The beautiful and timeless decanter shape resembles the Cardinal standing as if to say, this illuminates the spirit of Cardinal du Four himself.
The meaning of the number 21 in the Bible is “rebellion” and “sin.” Cardinal Du Four is a “rebellion of Armagnac against Cognac” and is based on three pillars of inspiration: The harmony of the Armagnac brandy blend, the illumination projected onto the Armagnac region of France, and the wonder associated with this new and timeless decanter.
Every part of the bottle’s design tells a story. For instance, the emblem of CdF was inspired by The Pantheon’s Dome. The word “Pantheon” is a Greek adjective meaning “honor all Gods,” and the Pantheon was first built nearly 2000 years ago as a temple for this very reason. It is said that the great artist Michelangelo saw this wonder and exclaimed that it looked more like the work of angels and not of humans. I was inspired by history and humanity’s great works and hoped to make my own contribution to the world of spirits.
NM: What makes Cardinal du Four, 21 Rébellion so special?
CN: Armagnac is 700 years old, 200 years older than Cognac. CdF is a harmonious blend of vintage Armagnacs from 21 to 43 years of age – 30 years old on average with no sugar or caramel added, which is superior in quality while using innovative blending techniques to ensure that each sip is luxuriously smooth, balanced, and elegant.
CdF personifies complexity and power with elegance and finesse. Its brilliant amber color has floral aromas of jasmine and iris, followed by secondary layers of nutmeg, dried fig, caramelized apples, along with elegant, toasted wood vanilla flavors. The long and lingering finish imparts cacao beans and salted caramel. The Armagnac is best enjoyed by specially designed tulip-shaped glasses that deliver the full tasting experience.
While relatively new in the market, CdF has already received significant industry recognition and accolades, including Gold Medal 2019 – Concours General Agricole Paris; Double Gold, 97 Points from Anthony Dias Blue, James Beard Award Winner – who commented “perhaps the most refined Armagnac I’ve ever tasted” -; Blue Lifestyle Award, 2020; Double Gold Medal; and San Francisco World Spirits Design Competition 2020.
NM: What is the most important lesson you learned about “doing business” during the pandemic?
CN: ADAPTATION! This pandemic proved to me that life is so unpredictable, so it’s very important to be open-minded and adapt to the current situations.
NM: What’s new on the horizon for Cardinal du Four?
We recently launched the brand in California and are starting to develop the markets in the U.S., particularly in Las Vegas, Miami, and New York, as well as the Asian and Russian markets at the end of 2022/early 2023. I intend to take my time growing the brand and market reach. There is no point in growth if it’s not done correctly in a sustainable way. My approach to business reflects the care I have put into developing the Armagnac itself – an approach that ensures the spirit lives on.
Vincent Guiheneuf, founder, Bijoux Macarons
NM: Can you tell me a little about your background?
VG: I’ve been a fine-dining chef for about 15 years and have worked in fine dining and Michelin star restaurants in St. Tropez and Courchevel, France, and abroad in Australia and Ireland. I have earned three culinary degrees and worked under the renowned chef Alain Ducasse.
NM: How did your background lead you to start Bijoux Macarons?
VG: During those years as a savory chef, I found myself very passionate about the art of pastry baking. So, when I returned to France after working in Dublin, Ireland, for six years, I had an opportunity to be a private instructor. I helped my students earn their French pastry degrees. I discovered my passion for macarons for their precision but also for their versatility. Then three years ago, I moved to Los Angeles with my wife, and I created Bijoux Macarons while working as a pastry chef at Bottega Louie, a French pastry shop in Los Angeles.
NM: What is the inspiration and philosophy of your brand?
VG: I have a simple philosophy when it comes to my macarons or cooking in general: The best [desserts] start with the best ingredients. That’s why my macarons are made using only the finest, freshest ingredients. Nothing artificial ever! My dream is to create the best macarons.
As a French pastry chef, it’s my responsibility to bring my savoir-faire to macarons for an authentic taste of France. Each macaron is handmade with dozens of precise steps essential to the texture and flavor of the macaron. That’s why it’s considered a luxury and the jewel or ‘bijoux’ of desserts.
NM: Things are starting to get back to normal. You launched your company around the time of the pandemic. How did you “pivot” during the pandemic to develop your brand and grow your business?
VG: We have been an online bakery since our first day of operation. It is our business model and strategy for exponential growth. In the food industry, there’s been a recent trend of ghost kitchens. We saw a vast potential to be an online bakery, delivering macarons to your door and delivering nationwide. What changed during the pandemic was my macaron classes and tastings. I now offer virtual tastings for groups on Zoom. Also, we’ve redesigned our online macaron class for the at-home baker that will be released this month.
NM: What is the most important lesson you learned during this time?
VG: I’ve learned that having both an online and physical store is equally important. This is what makes a food business survive in this challenging, competitive industry.
NM: What’s new on the horizon for Bijoux Macarons?
VG: We’re continuously improving the gift experience and looking for a place where people can pick up their orders five days a week. We are also planning to launch our own chocolate products, including chocolate dragées, bonbons, tablets, and other flavors of cookies.
In our next interview series, we will share more stories from leaders within the top names in fashion, design, and art. Stay tuned! ■