Le Fooding Bites the Big Apple

Gourmet’s European correspondent has seen Le Fooding change the way people think about food in France. What will happen when the French invade New York?
le fooding

“Dude, we’re the underground,” says Alexandre Cammas, the Paris-based founder of Le Fooding, the gastronomic guide to French restaurants that’s become a cultural phenomenon by thumbing its nose at France’s old guard. Since its first edition was published in 2000, the guide has not only given birth to one of the highest-traffic websites in France—lefooding.com, a mix of restaurant reviews, recipes, and gastro news—plus a regular series of events such as urban picnics and chef demos, but it has also completely changed the rules of the game in restaurant reviewing and food writing in France. For instance, the categories in Le Fooding’s Paris section are not the standard Bistro/Brasserie. They’re things like Trop Bon (Really Good), Feeling (mostly laidback contemporary bistros), and Faites Moi Mal! (Hurt Me! or expensive haute cuisine places).


“We value ‘le feeling,’” says Cammas, 34, of Le Fooding’s philosophy. “Intuition, the emotional and psychological reaction you have to a restaurant. Good food doesn’t taste good unless you’re happy.”

Now, Cammas and crew are ready to conquer a new frontier: New York City. On September 25 and 26, they will host Le Fooding d’Amour Paris-New York, their first urban picnics in the U.S. (For readers of gourmet.com, advance tickets are available now and 100 percent of the proceeds will go to Action Against Hunger.) Intending to show skeptical Yanks that, contrary to what they may have heard, France is actually brimming with young talent, the event will bring together ten cutting-edge French chefs (like Yves Camdeborde of Le Comptoir du Relais and William Ledeuil of Ze Kitchen Galerie), ten cutting-edge New York chefs (Momofuku’s David Chang and Wylie Dufresne of WD~50), two butchers, one ice-cream maker, two DJs, a select vintner, a mystery guest (Michelle Obama?), some fine fromage, and lots of Champagne.

Over the course of 48 hours at P.S. 1 Contemporary Arts Center in Queens, the pique-nique will be part food festival and part cultural exchange, the kind of event that has made it hip for twenty- and thirty-something Parisian bobos (bohemian bourgeois) to be seriously interested in food. Flash back to Le Grand Fooding d’Eté 2009 in Paris last May: Against an edgy lounge-and-dance mix spun by Ariel Wizman and Teki Latex, two of France’s A-list DJs, the barbecue-themed outdoor event had a sexy nightclub atmosphere that was light years from the usual organized gastronomic event. Yet the food was the real draw. A brochette of the most fashionable chefs in Paris served dishes chosen to reflect their style—Christophe Pelé of La Bigarrade came with fatty beef marinated, grilled and garnished with sweet peppers and anchovies, and Guillaume Delage of Jadis offered grilled veal tongue, Provençale style—and the party went on for hours.

Fast-forward to New York, a food-centric town, but not one known for its warm welcome. Cammas is unfazed. “The two cities, Paris and New York, they love each other,” he says. And “there’s a real freshness in New York in terms of discourse on food. New Yorkers love to eat and are free of Old World hierarchies. They love the food of today, and I know they’ll really respond to the idea of tasting some of the cooking of some of the most exciting modern French chefs.”

And Le Fooding d’Amour might be a turning point. Though Cammas reminisces about the days when Le Fooding was “cut off from real power, the whole world of Michelin and the famous food critics, the old chefs, the bourgeois,” he says he’s “very proud that we succeeded in liberating French cooking by being interested in what’s new and interesting.” As an ambassador of sorts, he’s taking his philosophies—hugely popular in France—on the road. “I think Americans will respond to Le Fooding’s style,” says Cammas, who is mulling over the idea of a bilingual Le Fooding guide to New York that would launch on lefooding.com. Currently living in Brooklyn, he thinks that Paris and New York share the sensibility of a new global gastronomic movement. “Things are changing in France,” he says. “Things are changing in the United States.”

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