Le Fooding Takes Over NYC

The French are better than we simple Americans at many things (staying thin, being fashionable, appearing cultured), but most importantly, the French know their food. Alexandre Cammas took his inherent French penchant for dining to new heights when he founded the gastronomic movement, Le Fooding, in Paris almost a decade ago. On September 25th and 26th, Le Fooding invades New York for their first stateside appearance. Le Fooding d’Amour Paris-New York is centered upon 6 renowned chefs from New York and 6 from Paris cooking for charity (Action Against Hunger) at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center. Tickets are inexpensive, the idea behind the event is monumental and with the talent in the cooking arena — Yves Camdeborde (Le Comptoir de la Relais), Inaki Aizpitarte (Le Chateaubriand), William Ledeuil (Ze Kitchen Galerie), Alberto Herraiz (Fogón), Stephane Jego (L’Ami Jean) and Christophe Pelé (La Bigarrade), plus David Chang (Momofuku), Julie Farias (General Greene), Daniel Boulud with Olivier Muller (db Bistro), Wylie Dufresne (wd-50), Sean Rembold (Marlow & Sons) Riad Nasr (Minetta Tavern) — it’s physically impossible for the food to be anything less than superb. Alex and his event coordinator, Zoé Reyners, give BlackBook a sneak peek.

What is Le Fooding, the movement? Zoé Reyners: It started 9 years ago in Paris while Alex was a food writer. He used the term fooding in an article to rhyme with fueling. It was unintentionally expressing what he felt about gastronomy at the time in France. Back then, it was a very regulated, very serious matter. Alex was fed up with this and wanted to inject some feeling into it. That’s why he ran with fooding. The idea was well-liked by the press and people started talking about that word. With a bunch of his food writer friends — who had the same feelings about food at the time — Alex decided to use this word “fooding” as a banner for what they were thinking. They held the first event with friends. It was a casual thing to do with new chefs, but the media attention surrounding the first event showed that this was something necessary, and something that people agreed with. Events were organized more often. The website was founded, a phone line, and an office were set up. Step by step it became a real company. There is now a team of 50 writers working for the annually distributed Le Fooding guide. The first completely independent issue was put out last year. Before that, it was as a supplement for larger magazines.

When you got started, what was the reaction of your target audience? Alexandre Cammas: The young French people responded very well and quickly to what we were doing, but it was more difficult to get attention from the old-school chefs and old-school food writers because Le Fooding was different and new. We weren’t just food writers … we started to be involved in concrete things. Normally food writers don’t take risks and straight criticize what’s good and not good. For the first time, we took some risks, and we organized events.

How do you decide on restaurants to review for the publication? Alex: The criteria to select a restaurant in our guide, or for our events, is after we have dinner, we ask ourselves if we want to come back to a restaurant. If so, that’s a good restaurant. You can explore this question, not only with three-star Michelin-guide restaurants, but you can ask the same question for pizza parlors, for bistros, for cafés.

Who are the people who explore this question? Alex: Naturally, it’s the people who are curious, who are open-minded to the taste of the time and to tastes of the time. If you’re straight-minded, if you just like one sort of cuisine, Le Fooding doesn’t much care for your type. We make the guides and the website for people who are curious, like we are.

Why did you choose to introduce this concept to New York? Zoé: The question people usually ask us is, “What’s new for New Yorkers because this spirit already exists here?” I think the event is actually very different from the kind of events organized in New York.

Alex: A guide is a guide, but we’re pairing our guide with the charity event. It’s quite different from TimeOut or from BlackBook.

Is advertising in the guide created in-house? Zoé: We don’t create the advertising, but we have graphic designers handling much of the advertising so that it’s not completely different from our illustrations, the text, or the spirit.

Alex: There’s definitely a spirit. The guide is funny, and you can just read it for pleasure. You aren’t supposed to just want to look in it for an address of a restaurant. For the events, it’s the same. We started in Paris with events. Therefore, we decided to come to New York and start with events too.

What do we need to know about the event? Alex: The event we produce in New York City will be very different from the events that you know surrounding food. It’ll be at P.S.1. We usually do our events in art centers. The spirit is linked to the idea that food is not only food. It can be about the atmosphere and the culture that surrounds it. Also, it’s not only star chefs that you have to pay lots to eat their food. We don’t come with the most famous chefs of France, but we come with the ones who are alive in Paris.

Zoé: I think people know them, but they aren’t the mythical chefs. They’re active, innovative, creative chefs.

Tell me about the graphic design aspect. Alex: We’ll create a collector’s menu. Each chef will be represented by one graphic designer. The chefs of Paris will be represented the best graphic designers of Paris; and the New York chefs will be represented by designers from New York. Some of the designers are: Ich & Kar, Change is Good, Gianpaolo Pagni, Helène Builly, Vanessa Verillon, Nicholas Blechman, Tim Tomkinson, Jan Wilker, Paul Sahre, Jeanne Verdoux, Christoph Niemann, Andre and So Me.

Will the chefs contribute any ideas to the design of the menu, or is it completely up to the designer? Zoé: The designers meet the chefs. They’ll taste their food. They try to understand their spirit, their way of being, their humor, and then they are inspired to create a design in which they are completely free to do whatever they want.

When will people start buying tickets? Alex: The other thing that is different is the price. It’s a price accessible for all the people who like food and who like this sort of party spirit, and not necessarily for the people who have a lot of money. They’re $30, alcohol not included.

And once inside? Zoé: Guests have the choice to go to 6 different chefs each night, and taste amazing food. It’s a huge meal for $30 and it’s a distinguished chef’s meal. From 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., the venue will be open only to VIPs on the guest list and for around 200 people that will have $60 VIP tickets, with Veuve Clicquot champagne included. The VIP space will be open from 6 p.m. to 11:30, whereas the rest of the venue will be closed at 10 p.m. Besides approximately 100 tickets each night, all the tickets will be available on the 15th of September on the Le Fooding website. Before that day, some tickets will be available if you have a secret code. Alex: We’ll also have DJ’s spinning in the VIP area and in the general admission area, including Paul Sevigny and Kolkhoze from Le Baron in Paris.

Paris: Top 5 Regional Tables

imageTasting the Hexagon without leaving Paris …

1. L’Ami Jean (Basque, in Invalides) – Spicy Pyrénées cooking under the hanging chili peppers. 2. A Casaluna (Corsica, in Louvre) – Grilled wolf and Brocciu with Sunday night sing-alongs. 3. Chez Michel (Brittany, in Gare du Nord) – Seafood and wild game from a master of Breton cooking.

4. Aux Lyonnais (Lyon, in Bourse) Ducasse does pig snouts and other trad favorites. 5. Mon Vieil Ami (Alsace, in Ile St-Louis) Strasbourg-style cuisine on an island in the Seine.

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.