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King Caviar

PARIS -- Growing up in southwestern France, Pierre Berge accompanied his grandparents on occasional strolls along the banks of the river Gironde. Halfway through the promenade, they would duck into an unusual cafe. Besides the standard fare of...

PARIS -- Growing up in southwestern France, Pierre Berge accompanied his grandparents on occasional strolls along the banks of the river Gironde. Halfway through the promenade, they would duck into an unusual cafe. Besides the standard fare of sandwiches, pate and ham, it offered another homegrown specialty -- caviar.

"Back then, caviar was served in certain local cafes," recalls Berge, 71, in an interview over lunch in his sumptuous Art Deco caviar restaurant here, Prunier. "French caviar production used to thrive."

No more. France might be synonymous with myriad luxury goods, from Dom Perignon champagne to dresses designed by legendary couturier Yves Saint Laurent -- Berge's partner, who retired in January -- but caviar no longer figures on that list.

Berge wants to change that. Four years ago he purchased one of the few remaining caviar farms in the Gironde region. And two years ago he acquired Prunier, the restaurant on the Avenue Victor Hugo whose magnificent decor is protected as a French national landmark.