Food: we were racing for a humble new table
It was the final party of Paris fashion week, and also the most exclusive. A very exclusive party, even held in great secrecy at Yoyo, the Palais de Tokyo club. Beyoncé received a hand-picked list of famous friends: Naomi Campbell, Jaden Smith, Cindy Bruna, Doja Cat, Lena Situations, Olivier Rousteing… photos strictly prohibited. Imagine the contents of the waiters’ trays that must have been circulating among the guests of an event hosted by Tiffany & Co. jewelers: this caviar? Lobsters? Even not ! A 10 euro cheeseburger, shallow on the verge of scandal: two potato patties, a slice of American cheese, a pickle, Charolais steak smashed on a plancha, a dash of Heinz ketchup and a touch of mustard not even old fashioned. They had been ordered from Dumbo, a shop in Pigalle that was less recognizable by its hidden front than the long queues that formed there every lunch hour. We encounter hungry students, office workers, a few tourists, sometimes famous chefs, Bertrand Grébaut or Jean-François Piège to name them.
© Felix Dol Maillot
Back to simplicity
This is the most popular “burger spot” in Paris, a city that has no shortage of addresses for so-called “gourmet” hamburgers with foie gras, Fourme d’Ambert or truffles. Charles Ganem and Samuel Nataf make just the burger they love: a simple, convenient fast food sandwich that evokes universal childhood memories. And what a shame if, to achieve that, the ketchup isn’t homemade and the cheese isn’t from a 21-month-old farmhouse cheddar wheel. Are we getting close to good product digestive disorders? Will a loaf of old-fashioned sourdough bread for the price of a movie theater ticket suddenly become less desirable? In a time when inflation is galloping, is a safe haven more than a comfort? In London, a humble cafe has become in a few months and without even wanting it an object of adoration among foodies: Norman’s. The reason for its success? An Instagram account with a normcore aesthetic where photos of ultra-minimalist dishes are posted weekly, with no comment other than menu titles, more likely to evoke the canteen of our childhood than the restaurant look: sausage and mash, peas and bacon, breaded escalope, beans in over toast, eggs and hash browns served with a tea bag… simple home cooking, each image of which can win up to 7,000 likes.
This triumph of banality over the algorithms of social networks that have always favored spectacular dishes and stunning video montages has the air of a new era. On screen, we’ve never seen so many stories of burned-out chefs: in 2022, the excellent series “The Bear” features a fashionable chef who ditches the world of gastronomy to take up the dirty eateries of his brother’s store in Chicago. In 1:34 shot sequence, “The Chef” chronicles the slow cracking of an entire kitchen brigade during a harrowing service. And this fall, we saw on “Le Menu,” Ralph Fiennes play a frazzled star chef who takes his guests hostage. A horror comedy largely inspired by new Scandinavian cuisine establishments who, for ten years, have dictated the world’s high gastronomic code and as their latest incarnation Noma, a 3-star restaurant located in Copenhagen, was named best restaurant five times. World. It is in these kitchens, where hundreds of cooks undertake colossal research and innovation, that some of the most profound transformations of the early centuries have taken place, such as the emergence of vegetables and fermenting, or ultra-local cuisine, inspired by the natural surroundings, hostility and the outside. normal. The menu costs 500 euros without wine and consists of around ten courses, each course of which could involve working around ten cooks through more than a hundred moves. Orders were placed months in advance, and Noma models have been imitated endlessly around the world. However, on Monday 9 January, chef René Redzepi announced the impending closure of the restaurant, explaining that the gastronomic system he helped build had reached a breaking point. “It’s unbearable,” he told the New York Times. Financially and emotionally, as an employer and as a human being, it just didn’t work out. »
This phenomenon is global: since Covid, which saw catering professionals rediscover what real life is like without the hard hours, there is no company in the world, from New York to Tokyo, that has not suffered from a “devastating shortage of qualified personnel.” Those who stay often demand better working conditions (work hours, pay), prompting restaurateurs to rethink their economic model already badly affected by the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis. Before opening Norman’s, Richie Hayes and Elliott Kaye worked at Lyle’s and Leroy, two internationally renowned London eateries. But their dream is to serve a dish that is both popular and good, without excessive sauce, on the Formica table, at a reasonable price. Gastronomy will not disappear, it will always be a field of unbridled creative expression. But now it can coexist with a “slower” model and focus on the restaurant’s original mission: healing body and soul.