Saulieu is a town on the former Nationale 6 (now the D906), in the heart of Burgundy, at the cross-roads between the four departments that make up Burgundy: Yonne, Côte-d’Or, Nièvre and Saône-et-Loire.
The town was established by the Romans along the road which crossed Gaul from north to south, and has always been a stopping-off point. That also explains why gastronomy is so important in the region: in the 1950s, for example, Saulieu was 5 hours from Paris by car, and it was a place to get something to eat and fill up the tank of the car.
Alexandre Dumaine, the chef at L’Hostellerie de la Côte-d’Or, with its three stars, used to act as host in those days to the entire jet set of Europe, on their way down to the Riviera or over to the Alps.
This was the historic property that caught Bernard Loiseau’s eye and he decided to breathe life back into this legendary hotel. But with the arrival of the motorway, the airplane and the high-speed trains, everything changed. Now Saulieu is no longer somewhere where you have to stop – the A6 motorway takes you there to enjoy its gastronomy and to visit the Burgundy region.
It is a key stepping-off point if you want to head in a variety of directions. Saulieu is located between Chablis and Beaune, between Auxerre and Dijon, between Beaune and Châtillon-sur-Seine, between the Auxois and the Morvan.
In what is now the entrance hall, there is an engraving of the Côte d’Or Hotel back in 1875! The Côte-d'Or was purchased in1904 by Paul Budin and his wife Elise. They provided the hotel with all the modern conveniences of the time: central heating and bath rooms. Their chef Jean-Baptiste Monin created the recipe for ‘jambon à la crème’, and this made his reputation and won an award at the Salon de Paris in 1924. As soon as stars for good restaurants were created by the Michelin Guide in 1926, the Côte-d'Or won one star.
The Budin family were owners of the property until 1930, when it was taken over by Alexandre Dumaine (1895-1974) and his wife Jeanne, who had already run well-known hotels in Algeria for nine years.
The Côte-d'Or was awarded its second star in 1931, and then a third in 1935 (held until 1964). The reputation of Alexandre Dumaine was then at its peak: he was spoken of as ‘cook to the kings’ and even ‘Alexander the Magnificent’. At that time the Côte-d'Or belonged to the ‘P.C.A.’ hotels (Paris-Côte d’Azur).
Amongst its guests from the worlds of politics, art and literature, there was the King of Spain Alfonso XIII, the Aga Khan, Prince Rainier, General Juin, Sacha Guitry, Orson Welles, Vivien Leigh, Reynaldo Hahn, Mistinguett, Edith Piaf, Charlie Chaplin, Gary Cooper, Raoul Dufy, Salvador Dali, Rita Hayworth, Bernard Buffet... all of whose names can be seen in the guest book which is illustrated with drawings, paintings and photographs. This book, an account of more than thirty years of history, was burnt by Dumaine in his oven, furious at a stupid comment made by a guest. At that time, the Côte d’Or was the gourmet restaurant of choice, along with ‘Point’ in Vienne and ‘Pic’ in Valence.
Then François Minot took over the property from 1963 to1975. After that Claude Verger decided to acquire it and hand over its management to his protégé, Bernard Loiseau, whom he thought was very promising. The name Bernard Loiseau would henceforth be an integral part of the legendary Côte d’Or. He would be the architect of its fabulous renaissance.
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