Exploring the Paris Coffee Wars

“There’s a coffee scene when there’s a dialogue and when the people making it take pride in their craft. When I was in Paris last there wasn’t much of either. Has it changed?” That’s what Oliver Strand, The New York Times ‘s resident java obsessive, emailed me when I asked him what he thought of the state of coffee in Paris. “All it takes to make a scene is more than one.” Surprisingly, for a nation whose café culture is synonymous quality of life, those with a taste for good coffee have always found France lacking. But is the French attitude toward coffee changing?

“They don’t know any better,” says Channa Galhenage, project and operations manager at Alto Café, one of the better cafes in Paris. “The product exists, but we need to go through a huge reeducation program.” He continues, “When we compare coffee to wine and talk of preparation and tastes, the French understand immediately, it seems to click into place.” He believes big companies like Starkbucks and Nespresso are “educating people, talking about the flavors.” He believes that “things are about to change,” hinting at a new caffeine-fueled zeitgeist and couple of interesting new openings planned in the near future.

The French coffee paradox is due to a few reasons, the first being that the country’s most widely consumed coffee, robusta, is the standard. To most of the people I spoke to who chose to remain off the record, a shadowy monopoly exists, with robusta using “subtly threatening” tactics on new businesses, making people afraid to strike out on their own, with different brands. Also, as one French barrista explained, “The French have a romantic, colonial mentality of being the best, without looking elsewhere.” For most café owners, that means less effort and more money.

Since 2005 , the undisputed star of the Paris coffee scene has been La Caféothèque, who roast their single origin Guatemalan beans — imported directly from the plantation — on site. Their baristas have world-class training, and are hip to the coffee culture, and their equipment (La Marzocco) is the best. The owner, a former Guatemalan ambassador to France named Gloria, is considered the godmother of coffee in Paris. Her partner, Bernard Chirouze, was once a telecom consultant in Guatemala, and together, they decided to come back to France after realizing that French coffee was “undrinkable.” image

“It was largely for historical reasons,” says Chirouze, “as the French coffee, in the beginning, came mostly from robusta in West Africa, and wasn’t the more fragrant coffee, like the Italians got from Ethiopia.” Even though the French need to be educated, he says, “Terroir is the future,” he says of the popular coffee brand. “There is an irreversible trend towards quality coffee. In the beginning, the French didn’t know what it meant, and we needed to explain and educate. It’s a battle, but the first reactions were a grand merci! Thank you for having made us discover this! We can’t drink coffee elsewhere now. “

“Now it will be an unstoppable wave, the market will grow exponentially, and there is space for quite a few people, especially for younger would-be baristas, many of whom Gloria trains. It will create a new métier, but it may take a generation for it to take hold. It’s like the minitel before the internet.” (Bernard was one of the first to set up e-mail systems in Guatemala in 1989.)

Also launching in 2005 was Alto Café.Their coffee is roasted in Italy by one of the best in the business, La Piantagioni. Pending a decision from the Mairie de Paris on street installations, their two colorful vans, which are currently inside, and a specially designed bicyclette, will be roaming the streets of Paris.

“It’s like the jazz scene in New York, when all the greats would get together and jam,” says Galhenage. “We have frog fights,” he says of the almost clandestine get-togethers between pro-baristas, home brewers, and other enthusiasts. These gatherings are the pole of all the brewsters in Paris, and it’s there that they compare notes and skills. “People are turning up who we don’t know, and have never seen before, complete novices who are really into it and who want to be a part of our community. And that’s really amazing.”

And although enthusiasm is high, one anonymous expert couldn’t resist mentionning that the “Big producers have a very powerful resistance to the Terroir coffee, as they have been in business for a very long time. In the beginning they laughed at us, said that Terroir coffee didn’t exist, but they will be the first concerned when quality coffee takes hold. He goes on to explain, “Terroir, by definition, is from a small space and a small producer, which limits the large producers, meaning they can’t make billions of cups per day from small family run plantations.”

Photos by Stéphanie Solinas.

Dita Von Teese Creams for Legendary Paris Tea Room

Just the other night I spent a sultry evening tasting Dita Von Tesse’s delectable cream, bowing my head down and lapping up her naughty, silky goodness, spread out wide before me. She was moist and delicious and drove me into rapture. She was rare and exciting and reassuringly expensive, and I wanted to share her with no one. Alas, this was not to be.

I am of course talking about her new line of pastries unveiled just this week for the legendary tea room and pastry house Angelina, long accused of being a tourist trap.

Sébastien Bauer, a third generation Alsatian pastry chef who worked for six years with the “Picasso of Pastry,” Pierre Hermé as head of creation, and hired by the Maison Angelina to reinvent their classic menu, recently devised two diabolically good creations for the sultry star. The “pastry cocktail,” and the macaroon, both inspired by the Cointreau Teese, a cocktail created for the showgirl by the eminent cognac house, look likely to rock the taste buds.

The Ange cocktail, as one is called, is served in a glass with a chocolate base topped with a melty violet flavored marscapone cream, caramelized orange slices, and a mini rum baba and ginger and orange flavored jelly cubes. The macaroon mirrors the same notes and ingredients, with a Cointreau and crystallized violet perfumed biscuit and milk chocolate and orange flavored ganache filling. Both may be eaten in the turn of the century Belle Epoque splendour, or ferreted away to be enjoyed in the strict privacy of your own abode.

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Industry Insiders: Patrick Roger, Master Chocolatier

Patrick Roger’s extraordinary chocolates have garnered him praise not only from admirers such as the “Mozart of Chocolate” for his subtle marriage and harmony of flavors, but also earned him the moniker “the Rodin of Chocolate” for his simple yet impressive cacao sculptures, which have even been recast in bronze for museum display. The windows of tiny Parisian boutiques are often crowded with spectators craning their necks to see his creations. Roger has been acknowledged as best chocolatier by the city of Paris, and he’s received the prestigious “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” distinction. His book, Forte en Chocolate is available (in French) from First Editions, Paris.

How would you describe yourself? I’m simple, so that shows you how complicated it is to be simple!

What do you think of the state of chocolate-making today? In practice, anything is possible. Chocolate allows any approach. Everyone has his own way of making chocolate — sometimes good, and sometimes …

Name someone you admire in your industry and why. Michel Belin, for his mug, his profile.

What are your favorite things to make? Love and food. The pleasures of the soul and flesh.

Name one positive trend that you see in your industry. To create true taste at a certain moment, and after a certain time. To transform the chocolate matter into excellence of taste, like the beer-flavored chocolate for Saint Patrick’s Day.

Anything negative? I hate it when someone does some media coup just for fashion’s sake. A trend, for example, is chocolate with cheese. One creates a chocolate just because it’s good.

What is something that people might not know about you? Everything. Most people don’t know me. They think that I’m inaccessible, but I’m not.

What are your future projects? To share the culture of taste with the international public. I hope to open a Patrick Roger shop in Italy.

What are you doing tonight? Working.

Industry Insiders: Yannig Samot, Straight from the Cul de Poule

Paris’ hippest restaurateur, the owner of La Famille and newly opened Cul de Poule (translation: “hen’s ass”) on going out in comfort, his disdain for trendy spots, and his funny side.

What do you do? I make restaurants where people feel at home, with good food and good feeling.

Where can we find you on a night off? I love L’Arpège because it’s a three-star Michelin restaurant, but the head chef and proprietor, Passard, turned it into a club. I like Le Baron because for once in my life I get into a happening nightclub, and with my flip-flops. Le Chateaubriand because Inaki Aizpitarte was my first chef, and because it’s always an adventure to eat there.

Who do you admire in the hospitality industry? The restaurant owner Julien Cohen’s gang because they do intelligent bistros and all are different — L’Altro, Quai Quai, Pizza Chic, Poujauran — because it’s the best bread and yeast forever. Also, Pierre Hermé because of his macaroons of course.

What positive trend do you see in dining? I love bistros where one can drink good wines … so rare in Paris nowadays.

Negative trends? The Costes kind of restaurants pisses me off … these trendy places where all the emphasis is on the decoration, but the quality of the food doesn’t follow.

What is something that people might not know about you? I am a comedian.

What are you doing tonight? The Superdiscount evening at La Famille.

Most anticipated event you have coming up in 2009? The premier of the film “Ma Premiere Etoile” on March 25.

Industry Insiders: Alexandre Cammas, Le Spécialiste

The founder of Le Fooding, the most iconoclastic food movement in France, on air conditioning, dandyism, and his culinary expertise.

How would you describe yourself? You’d be better off asking one of my colleagues. They’d be more objective. To sum it up simply: curious, persistent, mixed, free.

Name three restaurants/bars/clubs you like and why? I love too many to list just three, so I’ll try to choose three who can respond to two criteria: good and cool. To find a mix of these two in France is rare. Le Chateaubriand, a unique restaurant, is sexy, gourmet, alive, déclassé, and they do their own thing. A French cultural exception. Racines is a wine bar and restaurant in an old Parisian covered passage. Sublime products, treated with respect by a patron who has one of the best natural wine lists in Paris. Rose Bakery, a snack place, tea-house, luxury grocery store, full of soul, no décor— except for the food itself, salads full of freshness, cooked on the spot, cake pans overflowing. They have a great clientèle with lots of cinema people, reasonable prices, and the size of the bill is inversely proportional to your soulful experience.

Who do you admire in the hospitality industry? Jean-Louis Costes and Yves Camdeborde, for the same reasons but not at the same level. The first decided to reinvent the French café, the brasserie, to think outside the box, to import the world of design to the French restaurant business. He took great risks, listened to no one, and became a great success. It’s so easy to distinguish his establishments from the multiple copycats. Yves Cambdeborde, former chef at the Crillon hotel, did it his way, listened to no one, and reinvented the gastro-bistrot, accessible to anyone. Without him, we wouldn’t have all these good bistros that assure our reputation with all those fine gourmets, for whom most of the Michelin-starred establishments are just for soulless tourists.

Name one positive trend that you see in the hospitality industry. Silent air conditioning. Because, in general, I don’t like air conditioning.

Negative trends? Noisy air conditioning. I also hate hotels where you can’t open the windows. Like in Tokyo.

What is something that people might not know about you? I snore when I sleep on my back, but not when I sleep on my stomach. So, there are worse people out there.

What are you doing tonight? I go out and eat every lunchtime, so, in the evenings , I go back to my place. This evening, for example, I’m going to finish The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou, a sublime book on the condition of blacks in 1960s America. Then I’ll surely attack L’Exposition by Nathalie Léger, a short text on feminine dandyism. And then maybe I’ll get up again and write down on paper all the new whims that are inside of me to be able to sleep in peace.

Most anticipated event you have coming up in 2009? The first Le Fooding event in New York in September of this year, with a 99.99 % chance of happening.

Industry Insiders: Marc Grossman, Parisian Juicemeister

Marc Grossman, the charismatic owner and driving force behind Bob’s Juice Bar in Paris, is an iconoclastic figure. A former award-winning scriptwriter and Harvard grad — something you’d never guess from his bohemian demeanor and laid-back character — his tiny juice bar located on a shabby-chic Canal Saint Martin backstreet has garnered rave press from the French gastronomic and expat community. That attention has led to cookbooks (Smoothies and the recently released Muffins, both from Marabout publications) and might put Grossman on the throne of France’s coolest juice empire.

Favorite Hangs: Cafezoid (kids cafe in the 19th); Ploum, a Japanese restaurant in the neighborhood; various little Asian restaurants in Belleville (don’t know names or addresses off hand). Gallerie Impaire on Rue de Lancry, which is the only art gallery I feel comfortable in, probably because they feature outsider art (i.e., art by crazy people). La boucherie, a used clothing store on my block. I can’t walk in without finding something I have to own and that I can actually afford.

Point of Origin: New York City (Manhattan). Studied filmmaking as an undergraduate at Harvard, did a bunch of odd jobs — none in food, some in film. Finally made an independent low-budget film called “Slipdream” (wrote and directed) under the name Marc Grant. (Grant was my family’s name growing up because my father is a jeweler, and when he was starting out, the Italian boss thought Jerry Grant sounded better than Jerome Grossman, so we grew up as Grant, but the name change was never official. Today I go by Marc Grossman and sometimes Bob.) The film is “Jack and the Beanstalk” as an allegory for drug addiction. Jack is a pot dealer, the beanstalk is a psychedelic plant, climbing the beanstalk = getting high … you get the idea. It has won all kinds of awards at some really rinky-dink film festivals that nobody has ever heard of. All and all, it was an embarrassing, painful experience, but I learned a lot. I’m a big believer in “success is built on failure.” I’ve been in France for eight years and am married to a French woman with whom I have two boys. I have had Bob’s Juice Bar for about two and a half years. Before that I worked in France, teaching English and translating scripts for Columbia Tristar among other clients.

Why a juice bar? I like juice bars. I come from a place where juice bars are as common as bakeries in Paris. There were practically none when I arrived in France … certainly none that I would call a real juice bar. It seemed like an obvious good idea to open one. I kept saying, “Someone should do this. I’m sure it would work.” Then one day I discovered this affordable space across the street from where I live and decided to bite the bullet. I was not planning on opening a juice bar. The plan was to finish the screenplay I was working on. Anyway, things rarely go according to plan. The screenplay remains unfinished.

Side Hustle: I have two kids and am a workaholic. I have almost no spare time. I like to do yoga and meditate in the mornings before work. I play guitar at the bar when I have some downtime. I sometimes watch stupid TV series like Dexter at night. I like to think that I go bowling regularly, but (that) actually only happens like twice a year (Porte de la Chapelle).

Projections: Setting up a bar a jus ephemere at the Bon Marche for Christmas. Trying to open a second location. Book idea too undeveloped at this point to really talk about it. Let’s just say it will be original and health-food related.

Industry Insiders: Peter Schaf, Agent Absintheur

Described by cutting edge food writer Louisa Chu as “the epicenter of the global absinthe revival”, Peter Schaf is as far removed from an absinthe fueled maniac as one could expect. Discreet, self-effacing, and polite, Schaf is a major player in the absinthe renaissance. An obsessive collector, scholar, and consultant to some of the best absintheurs in the world, Schaf is the dark horse of an industry that is all too often characterized by false perceptions and charlatans looking to make money off of the misunderstood and legendary literary tipple.

Point of Origin: My brother came to my wedding in Marseille in 1999 and asked me to find some absinthe for him, as he had tasted some on a deep-sea fishing trip and found it interesting. I found a Spanish mail-order liquor supplier on the web and while surfing around, discovered the already growing, mostly American underground absinthe enthusiast community on a forum at feeverte.net. From there, I made virtual online acquaintances from around the world, several whom I would eventually meet in person, some becoming friends and a few, business partners. What attracts you to absinthe? The history and legends, the myriad of fascinating antique objects, the complex and varying tastes of a well-made absinthe. Absinthe appeals to my lifelong antique-collecting/treasure hunting inclinations along with my desire to taste and experience unusual foods and drinks. The public seems to have perceive a stigma when thinking of absinthe. What are your thoughts on this? Where do you think it comes from? Ask any French person about absinthe and virtually 100% of the time you will get one of two responses: “It’s illegal, yes?” and “Doesn’t that make you crazy?” It took 50 years to ban absinthe in France (1915) after the first anti-absinthe literature of the 19th century appeared. That battle produced a great deal of negative press which made it over to the USA, where absinthe was banned even before France (1912) as a “precaution” to protect Americans from the degradation of society that it had caused in France.

Years later (1988), absinthe was officially “defined” by decree in France as a protective measure; our research uncovered that this also effectively legalized real absinthe, but no one seemed to notice or care commercially until over 10 years later. The recent “re-legalization” of absinthe in the USA (2007) is due to a similar reason: It was banned without the American government providing any specific definition as to what ingredients made a liquor named absinthe actually become absinthe. Through legal pressure, the government was convinced to declare specifics, thus opening the door for modern absinthes in the USA. Unfortunately, modern profiteers, with no clear understanding about what true absinthe actually is, are selling poorly made substitutes, using the same false “hallucinogenic” myths that caused absinthe to be banned as a “drug” in the first place!

Side Hustle: I wander flea markets when I need to clear my head and feed my treasure-hunting tendencies, keeping an eye out for that rare antique absinthe spoon, glass, document, or what not. I was once an avid scuba diver in another life, and miss it. I am a self-professed “wine dick,” much to the distress of friends who might accidentally get themselves into a technical discussion while drinking wine with me. Favorite Hangs: Actually, I am always at work, and never at work. Isn’t that the definition of an ideal job? My idea of playing is always having a sample of absinthe or some odd liquor or wine for someone to try. I recently received a “key” for the secretive PDT in New York City. I prefer a calm setting to unwind — this is my idea of the ideal lounge, and Jim’s cocktails are simply perfect. Too bad it’s an ocean away. That said, I always bring absinthe drinkers to the unique Cantada II bar in Paris (even though I don’t exactly blend in with the crowd). Mickey’s choice of absinthe is the best in Paris outside of my apartment. Alfred Jarry and Rimbaud would have appreciated the décor and ambiance. Known Associates: Who have you collaborated with, etc. during the course of your powerful ascent to glory? Glory, power?! I’d just like to be there when it happens! I provided T.A. Breaux his commercial start by setting him up in 2003 to make the Jade absinthe line in a distillery in the Loire Valley; this would eventually lead to efforts that helped lift the ban in the USA. Absinthe historian and antique booze-hunter David Nathan-Maister and I have collaborated on the small-batch Roquette absinthes made at the Emile Pernot (with a “T”) distillery in Pontarlier, France. I have contributed much to his exceptional absinthe collection and research, including a groundbreaking lab study debunking drug-like claims given to historic absinthes. David, Ted, and I were featured in a 2006 New Yorker article by Jack Turner, which I feel was strongly instrumental in the renewed interest in absinthe in the USA.

I arranged much of the 2004 absinthe episode of Kevin Brauch’s Thirsty Traveler TV series and was featured on the 2005 pilot of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations series; he had his first taste of “vintage” absinthe from one of my antique bottles here in Paris. That would eventually lead to a 2007 episode for Gourmet Magazine’s “Diary of a Foodie,” where my Pontarlier absinthe projects were recorded by Louisa Chu, the charming chef-vagabond of Chicago. I recently had the pleasure of supplying absinthe to the talented Jim Meehan of PDT, the best mixologist I have had the privilege of imbibing with. However, most of my efforts and associations have remained low-key, and I’m not that comfortable with self-promotion. Projections: The potential for making a world-class absinthe in the USA is as high as making great wine, and I guess that has worked out pretty well. Distilling absinthe is possible almost anywhere in the world, but only if you have the right equipment, along with well-sourced plant ingredients from the best terroirs and, of course, a solid foundation of traditional techniques and protocols. I think the artisan food and drink movement in the States has created an interesting environment for high-quality absinthe production. Once well-made absinthes become better appreciated in the USA, France might once again embrace them, and I look forward to the time when absinthe will be regarded once again as a world-class spirit.

What are you doing tonight? My daughter is now on school holiday with her grandparents in Marseille, so I plan to meet my wife for Korean near the Opera. That is, after I try to work off excesses from my recent American trips at my gym L’Usine, one place that definitely doesn’t see me near enough. I will finish the evening in front of the computer, working on what I hope will be a useful handbook for the modern absintheur.

Industry Insiders: Romee de Goriainoff, Undercover Cocktailist

The force behind two of the hottest bars in Paris — the Experimental Cocktail Club and the recently opened Curio Parlor — Romee de Gorianoff abandoned a golden banking career to pursue his true love: the cocktail. His contemporary speakeasies are packed nightly with an almost exclusively word-of-mouth buzz, full of interesting types serious about their liquor.

Point of Origin: A graduate economics student from Dauphine University in Paris and Bocconi University in Milan turned entrepreneur in Paris in the bar business. I was supposed to start a year ago trading in a brokerage firm in London the week before I found out about the location that was to become the Experimental Cocktail Club. Between being a finance guy and an entrepreneur, the choice became very evident for me!

What’s a typical day? Waking up at 9 a.m. After breakfast, my partners [Olivier Bon and Pierre Charles Cross] and I meet around 10 a.m. at our office. We review the entire business situation: check orders, the incoming deliveries, make a little brief on the employee situation, the payroll, etc. We also talk about the reservations for the evening, the special parties we want to promote, the planning. These meetings always cover both clubs, the Experimental Cocktail Club and the Curio Parlor. After lunch, we go on the clubs and check what is missing, what is broken, etc. and fix what must be fixed. In the afternoon, most of the time we meet with spirit brand salespeople, do some tasting, etc. Around 6 p.m., we indulge ourselves a little break before actually working the bars. Afterwards, we work from 7 or 8 p.m. to minimum 2 a.m. during the week, and to 4 a.m. over the weekend. Going to sleep minimum at 3 a.m.. Then waking up again at 9 a.m.

Tell us a little about your team. I have two partners that are also my best friends and roommates: Pierre Charles Cross and Olivier Bon. I also have two bar managers: Carina Soto Velasquez and Emily Baylis. Carina is taking care of the Experimental Cocktail Club, and Emily is in charge of the Curio Parlor. Farock Benzema is the doorman for the ECC and is also doing an amazing though difficult job. Besides, I have a bunch of occasional bartenders doing two or three shifts per week.

Favorite Hangs: I love the newly opened Mama Shelter Hotel just in front of the Fleche d’ Or in the 20th. They’re serving amazing cocktails. I also go to L’échelle de Jacob in the 6th from time to time, Harry’s Bar, the Park Hyatt. For a night out I still enjoy the Baron. As for restaurants, my favorite is l’Ami Jean in the 7th. I also go quite often to Chez Michel, les Valseuses, au Bascou, le 404, le Pré Verre, Itinéraires, l’Unico … so many restaurants in Paris!

What makes your bars different? Both the Experimental Cocktail Club and Curio Parlor are thoroughly based on quality. Quality goes from the wine, cocktails, and spirits you’re being served, the music you’re listening to, to the service that must be cool but always serious for customers. The design is also very important, although different in the two bars. We wanted to create venues in which one could feel comfortable while drinking. The five senses must be awake when one goes out.

I think it’s the main difference with other bars in Paris and the reason we are unique. You can spend a night out at the Curio Parlor or the Experimental Cocktail Club, drink great drinks or high quality spirits in a nice atmosphere, and listen to nice DJ set … at a reasonable price! And they are also different from one another. The Experimental Cocktail Club is more of bar that we wanted reminiscent of the prohibition area. The atmosphere is very low key, and it could be a little be seen as a French-bistro-turned-cocktail bar. However, most people compare it to a typical cocktail bar from New York. We wanted the Curio Parlor to be like a British gentleman’s club in which ladies would be of course admitted! The green, the material, the overall feel is British. It’s more chic (but not snobbier) than the Experimental Cocktail Club, but still keeps a cool atmosphere.

Favorite bars elsewhere in the world? I have many! Three of my favorite bars are based in New York City: PDT (the best), Flatiron Lounge, and the Pegu Club. I also love Milk and Honey and Little Branch in New York City, too. In London, I go to the Lonsdale, Montgomery Place, Shoreditch House, Momo’s, and Purple Bar for a date.

Industry Insiders: Daniel Rose, American in Paris

The hottest young chef in the city of lights, with a pocket-sized restaurant and a waiting list months long, has nothing Gallic about him. The raffish, good-looking Daniel Rose, who doesn’t even consider himself a real chef, hails from the Windy City. Chicago-raised Rose has trained in some of the greatest kitchens in the world (Bocuse, Meurice) and been surrounded by a media storm since opening his 16-seater, menu unique modern Spring in a gentrifying part of Paris’ ninth arrondissement. He recently came back from a research trip to Japan for inspiration.

Point of Origin: A hungry student in Paris turned hungry cook. Gourmandise is a powerful motivator.

What’s a typical day? Dinner preparation starts at 8:30 AM each morning. As we make a new menu every day we basically start all over again from scratch. There is also no refrigerator space to store anything for more than a few hours. While we are trying to cook, we also have to navigate our way through a steady stream of phone calls and visitors. Everyone from our friendly neighbors to lost vignerons.

Tell us a little about your team. Maire Aude Mery (my second) is ex Laurent, Pierre Gagnaire, and Chiberta. Talented, beautiful, and smart. Audrey Jarry (wine and service) is the daughter of a Champagne producer and amateur oenologue in her own right. Frighteningly precise palate. Disarmingly well informed. Impeccable taste.

Side Hustle: Just for the fun of it, I’m trying to get a bunch of very bit parts in movies filmed here in Paris. “Guy at Café No. 2” — walk-ons, stuff like that. Cookbooks, like the upcoming 365 Days of Spring, TV shows, things in the works, hopes … I’ve put the TV show shooting schedule on hold to concentrate on cooking and on opening the new restaurant, but in addition to developing bubble gummy TV Food Network stuff, I’m also working on a series for PBS about food and cooking in France.

Favorite Hangs: I like to go to the Cloche d’Or with my girlfriend and coworkers — especially when Sylvain is there and especially after midnight. Big fan of Belleville’s Chinatown.

Known Associates: I don’t think anyone hangs at my restaurant. We’ve got everyone from other chefs to our friendly neighbors. Don’t forget Scallywagger, our neighbor’s friendly dog.

A little about the kitchens you’ve worked in? The Auberge des Abers in Lannilis with Chef Jean Luc L’Hourre was a real joy.

What happened in Japan? What did you learn? I ate a lot. I think I drank a lot, too. I think I learned to calm down.

Some favorite restaurants of your own ? I like A la Goutte d’Or in the 18th for chorba and brick for 5,50 €. I also like the bar at the Hotel Meurice for drinks.

An American in Paris doing business, how is it? Is it a business? Where do you get your produce? We have secret agents at Rungis [Market] that bring us the best stuff they can find.

Favorite dishes? Anything with ris de veau (sweetbreads) or pigeon.

Do you consider yourself a chef yet? No, even less than before.

Projections: Look out for a new Spring location, Spring 2009. Much bigger, but only 22 seats, with a cave à Champagne and lobster sandwiches during off hours. Somewhere in the 1st, and four times the surface area, but with only six more seats (22 instead of the present 16). More cooks, same no-choice menu, and some a toute heure surprises.

What are you doing tonight? I’m having dinner at Laurent, with the prettiest girl in the world. I’m hungry!