In this article, you will learn about the Monegasque love for the dish known as socca and chef Roger Charton from the Condamine market.
After eleven months of absence, Charton, an emblematic figure of the Condamine for nearly forty years, has gone back to the kitchen… to the joy of the Monegasque people.
He is back, the one the Monegasques have all been waiting for. Since February, Roger Charton, the famous craftsman of “Chez Roger”, has returned to the Condamine market, an emblematic district of the Principality. It was due to illness that Roger had to close shop last year, to the great despair of his regulars. A petition had also been put online for the reopening of his establishment and had generated nearly 700 signatures.
A family affair
It is with the help of his son-in-law Julien Bravetti and his companion Christiane that Roger now serves his customers. “He was sick for a few months so he had to close up the shop in order to get better. But we put him back on his feet and now he’s back in better shape than ever,” says Julien.
This former student of the EDHEC business school and banker in Monaco decided to leave everything in order to train in making socca and follow in the footsteps of his father-in-law. “I’ve liked it for a long time, and it’s true that the tradition has always attracted me… I grew up in the atmosphere of the market, it is a very different corner of Monaco, very far from the ‘see and be seen’ atmosphere. I have a lot of fun doing this.”
Though the socca continues to please, Roger knows he is not immortal. “I’m training this young man, I watch everything he does; they call me Eagle Eye. Like my mother at the time in the bakery.” Roger was a baker until he was 33, “the age of Christ,” he joked. He didn’t like night work, so he decided to open his own establishment in 1978 in Monaco.
Links with the Palace
In addition to being a real star at the Condamine market, Roger is also a close friend of the royal family.
“Prince Rainier said to me one day: ‘Little boy, what do you know how to do?’ That’s when I decided to get into socca. I served it during intermissions at the circus festival. He came to see us every night.”
There’s no doubt about his attachment to the Palace: two framed photographs of Prince Albert and Princess Charlene can be found on the counter, a true symbol for Roger, who has watched the Prince grow up.
“He came on the day of the reopening, I got dressed up for the occasion.” A 100% Monegasque business for which “90% of customers are regulars,” according to Julien. “We have a lot of premises, it’s not seasonal.” A rather unusual success for an establishment that offers only two dishes (socca and pissaladière). “It is no coincidence that there are so many people. If one does not work hard, there is no magic wand. It’s good, so people are happy. This is not supermarket socca,” continued Roger, who now counts on his son-in-law to take on the business.
“Indeed, in the long term, when he decides, I will take up socca.” One thing is for sure, the socca of the Condamine market is not going to stop anytime soon.
The petition: a love letter to socca
The story of the petition revealed the depth of feeling of the dish’s fans.
“It is inconceivable that there would be no more socca at the market. It is as if there were no more figatelli in Corsica or palets Breton in Brittany. And, if there was any risk of that happening, why not create a position of soccaiolo, a State official or municipal employee, in charge of protecting socca?”
This passionate plea represents a movement that grew on Monegasque social networks after Roger Charton closed up shop. Many Internet users took a stand for the “return of the socca to the Condamine market.” The statement in question was published on a Facebook group dedicated to the subject. In just a few days, the page had attracted 400 people. Among the members, all types of people could be found. Above all, a petition was launched on the web that also convinced many people. More than 400 people had already signed it, merely one day after it was set up.
A typical, delicious and convivial dish
The reasons for this movementwere explained on the site of the petition: “For more than six months, due to health problems, our national treasure Roger (Charton, NDLR), Grand Master of the socca of the market of Condamine, has not reopened his doors. All lovers of this typical, delicious and convivial dish are upset, some have even sunk into depression … We ask the Mayor of Monaco to mobilise for the reopening of this legendary place, find a replacement, a temporary solution to avoid dramas in families. Retirees and children are starting to show alarming signs of lack of socca. The revolt is growing. Let us act. Beyond organising ourselves, what is the future for socca at the Market of La Condamine?”
A reply posted on the Facebook group provided some answers: “Hello everyone, I allow myself to publish a message to you (being the son-in-law of Roger) (…). First of all thank you for your attention, messages of support and your patience. Our socca artist is looking after himself at the moment, he is getting better and better, and provided that his state of health remains good, we should reopen very soon! We understand your expectations and how much you miss socca, it is the same for his family and friends, but we are hopeful that we’ll all be tasting socca again soon! Daghe Roger”.
The message was “liked” more than a hundred times, which provided proof of a growing movement around this subject. Not very surprising: everyone can agree on this dish, which is shared and eaten with one’s hands.
“Socca is something extremely important,” stated Georges Marsan, the Mayor of Monaco. This “is part of the culinary heritage of Monaco”. To have it available in the market, at its special stall, is “fundamental.”
Joël Garault agreed. For the star chef who has been at the Vistamar for 25 years and today president of the association Monaco Goûtet Saveurs, socca is “the spirit of the market”. Above all, the meal is “emblematic of the culture, heritage and identity” of Monaco, says the chef who “adheres completely” to the traditional process. And that surely explained the enthusiastic rallying around this petition.
The signatories of the petition must surely be thrilled to have their socca master Roger Charton back in action at the Condamine.