Like father, like daughter: Claudia Bouvier carries on the legacy of family-owned deli, Les Delices de France
Daniel Bouvier used to remind his coworker and close family friend Peter Passage that daylight saving time was coming up. He’d tell Passage to remember to turn the clocks back and show up for work at Les Delices de France, the stalwart Lionshead French deli, at the correct time. But being the practical joker that he was, Bouvier slyly said the wrong date, and Passage would show up an hour early and set to work.
“He’d get there and the whole store would be out ready, and he’d be like, ‘gotcha,'” Claudia Bouvier said of her father. “It worked two or three times.”
“He had an amazing sense of humor.”
Daniel, the longtime owner and founder of Les Delices, passed away from a complication of his cancer treatment in late February. Claudia, whom fans of park and big-mountain skiing will recognize for winning the Freeskiing World Tour and landing a 720 off a cliff, was very close with him.
Her father’s death came two weeks after she gave birth to her first son, Oliver, and about a month before Les Delices was forced to close for the first time ever in its 35-year history due to COVID-19. But now that the deli is open again, Claudia and her mother are remembering Daniel by continuing to run the family-owned French deli.
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“He saved every Father’s Day card I ever gave him, kept every newspaper article I was ever in, every clipping, every magazine. He was always there for me. We were really close. We talked every day,” she said during a Zoom interview, tearing up. “It’s just really hard.”
A Vail staple
Daniel Bouvier came to Vail from Grenoble, France. He was a ski instructor for the French military and a big deal in the Chamonix extreme skiing scene. He came to America to compete, and eventually, Vail Resorts recruited him to work in the ski school. Claudia said in a 2009 interview with SKI Magazine that her father had a huge influence on her own professional skiing career.
After a few years, Daniel decided he was tired of corporate structures. He and Claudia’s mom, Lisa Tuffanelli-Bouvier, opened Les Delices 35 years ago. The couple divorced about 20 years ago and remained friends. They continued to run the deli together for a while until Lisa decided to move to California, where she lived for 15 years.
Shortly after his death, the family closed the deli for the first time in its entire history. It was open each Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s: no days off, until COVID-19 hit.
“They didn’t close the day I was born,” Claudia said.
When the time came to reopen, neither Claudia nor her mother were ready to sell or transition ownership of Les Delices. Tuffanelli-Bouvier moved back to Vail to handle day-to-day operations. Claudia, who visited Vail every winter to see her dad, is managing bigger picture updates with the help of her husband, Chuck Mumford. They’re working on new online ordering and specialty menu items from their home in Taos, New Mexico.
“It’s been strange for everybody,” Claudia said. “We’re taking it as an opportunity to move forward.”
The deli is also working on options for catering in-home parties. The current hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
Growing up at the deli
Quite literally, from the day she was born, spending time at the deli and with her father were one and the same for Claudia. She grew up sitting on a milk crate, watching her dad and their two longtime workers do business.
“He loved giving them a job and he loved being able to help them. He always wanted to make sure that they were taken care of,” she said.
As she got older, her parents expected her to contribute to the shop. Instead of a pay check, they paid her by paying for important things in her life, like biking, gymnastics and of course, skiing.
“One year, I went to my dad and said, ‘Well, I know you need me to help,’” Claudia said. “’How about I do a delivery service?’ So I brought menus to all the restaurants. Whatever tips I got from delivering sandwiches on my bike, I got to keep. I just ran my delivery service and biked around. I was like, ‘I gotta train on my bike, Dad.’”
And even when she wasn’t on the clock, the deli was there.
“My best friend, Nikita Apostol, and I used to bike all around town. We lived next door to each other and we’d walk from Red Sandstone across the bridge, and then go to the deli,” Claudia said.
Claudia attended the University of Colorado Boulder while competing as an elite freeskier, and when she decided to transition out of her skiing career, she pursued med school. She finished her residency two years ago and is now an ER doctor.
“My dad worked really hard so he could help me go to medical school,” she said. “He was working later into his life to make up for the money that he had given me to go to medical school. That was really important to him.”
Pride and hard work were two of the traits that made Daniel Bouvier a respected father, friend and Vail Valley community member. In an email sent just a few minutes after our conversation, Claudia captured the rest.
“He was stubborn and stern, but had the best sense of humor. He knew how to make people laugh, either with a practical joke or with an anecdote about his life or the world. He had traveled so much and had a breadth of knowledge, plus spoke four languages perfectly. He was always a little afraid to show people how much he cared about them, but when he loved you, he made it known in his own unique ways,” she wrote. “He is so missed by me, my husband, my mom and all his friends. His grandson Oliver Pierre Mumford will have to settle for stories about his grandpa. We have a lot.”