Once-spurned districts in Paris, NYC, London mount foodie revenge

5th June 2015, Comments 0 comments

Revenge is sweet. And savoury. And several other flavours besides.

That could be the motto of a new generation of chefs who are turning formerly spurned outer neighbourhoods of Paris, London and New York into foodie havens, replete with cafes and restaurants whose quality rivals that of traditional city-centre eateries -- for a much lower price.

The trend being seen in eastern and northern Paris, in eastern London, and in New York's boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens is being highlighted from Friday by Le Fooding, a respected French guide organising a tasty three-day festival involving some 30 of the young chefs.

Those districts, once working class areas, have become thoroughly gentrified over the past 15 years and the food they now offer is "extremely lively, innovative," said Le Fooding's founder, Alexandre Cammas.

It's nothing short of a "cultural revolution" within those cities, he said.

"In those restaurants, there are no tablecloths, no layers of service, sometimes not even an entree (US: starter), and the main dish could be tapas or a tasting menu. There isn't necessarily a choice.

"Their point in common is dropping all that is superfluous, trying to make good things without adding stuff to the bill," he said.

- Affordable eateries -

One example in Paris is Tatiana Levha, a 30-year-old chef whose Polish-Filipina extraction speaks to the cross-cultural influences at work. She runs a bistro called Servan in the city's 11th arrondissement that Le Fooding has anointed Paris's best.

With her sister leading the waitstaff, Levha offers a creative and inexpensive menu in a former cafe whose tall windows give on to the street.

She decided to set up shop in the neighbourhood where she's been living for 12 years.

Even though there's "less traffic than in Saint-Germain", Paris's extremely touristy Left Bank district, it's one of the city's lively eastern neighbourhoods that are "still affordable when you're young, which lets you be autonomous and free".

What's more, "the customers here are really friendly, with people who come to see us because there are a lot of things opening up, lots of young people setting up."

Le Fooding's festival will also be hosting chefs from up-and-coming areas from other cities, including B and Queens in New York, Brussels, Berlin and London's Shoreditch neighbourhood.

"These districts start off attracting young people who don't have a lot of money. They are places where you go to drink, to party," said Cammas, explaining the changes being seen.

"Then these young people move in, they buy an apartment, have kids, they can't stay out as late, they have babysitters, they don't go clubbing any more. Then, for these young people who don't want to get old, the restaurant becomes the last rallying point to mix it up.

"In New York, in Los Angeles, we're seeing exactly the same thing happening."

The result, he said, was food that is "paradoxically both global and localised -- the common denominator is wanting to work with local produce as much as possible".

In Paris it has redefined what French cooking is, Cammas argued.

"Is it French cooking? That's impossible to say, there are so many foreign chefs who have opened restaurants in Paris.


© 2015 AFP

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