Well, it’s finally happened. The food truck craze has crossed the Atlantic and has taken (of all places) Paris by storm. Says Julia Moskin in the New York Times:
Among young Parisians, there is currently no greater praise for cuisine than “très Brooklyn,” a term that signifies a particularly cool combination of informality, creativity and quality.
All three of those traits come together in the American food trucks that have just opened here, including Cantine California, which sells tacos stuffed with organic meat (still a rarity in France), and a hugely popular burger truck called Le Camion Qui Fume (The Smoking Truck), owned by Kristin Frederick, a California native who graduated from culinary school here.
Not only that, but American chefs have also become part of this trend. “American chefs are at the helm of some of Paris’s hippest restaurants,” Moskin reports, “like Daniel Rose of Spring, Kevin O’Donnell of L’Office and Braden Perkins of Verjus. And the city’s collective crush on high-end hamburgers continues: Parisians are paying 29 euros, or just over $36, for the popular burger at Ralph’s, the Hamptons-Wyoming-chic restaurant in the palatial Ralph Lauren store.”
Trés Brooklyn? Hamptons-Wyoming chic? What the hell is going on?
Five years ago I interviewed the great Jacques Pépin, who remarked on the public perception of a chef, both in France and in America:
When I worked at the Pavillon, we were part of Local 89, the dishwashers, the cooks—everything was the same, there was no differentiation. On the social scale, we were quite low, certainly the cook. And any good mother would’ve wanted her child to marry a doctor, a lawyer, an architect, but certainly not a cook. But now we are geniuses, you see? The whole thing has changed. And interestingly enough, in France at the time, we were a little higher than we were in America on the social scale—not that much higher, but higher. In France, we were considered craftsman, that is, the artisan in the same sense as a jeweler or cabinetmaker or someone who works with his hands and does something…. In France we were here [he raises his hand midlevel] and [in America] we were here [he lowers his hand]. Now in France we are here [hand slightly above midlevel], but [in America] we are here [he stretches his hand all the way up]. It totally exploded and changed and, you know, it’s fun.
American chefs seem to be experiencing something similar: Their status in France was lower than it was in the States. Today, as evidenced in the Times, it is on the rise as the French discover gourmet cheeseburgers, soft tacos, and cupcakes. Yes, cupcakes.