Food: it runs for the new unpretentious tables

It was the last party of the Paris Fashion Week, and also the most exclusive. A party so exclusive, in fact, that it took place in the utmost secrecy at the Yoyo, the club of the Palais de Tokyo. Beyoncé received a select 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 circulated among the guests of this event organized by jeweler Tiffany & Co.: caviar? Lobster ? Neither ! Cheeseburgers for 10 euros, trivial to the point of scandal: two potato sandwiches, a slice of American cheese, a pickle, a Charolais steak flattened on a plancha, a dash of Heinz ketchup and a touch of even not old-fashioned mustard. They had been ordered from Dumbo, a shop in Pigalle that is less recognizable for its discreet facade than for the long queue that forms there every lunchtime. We meet hungry students, office workers, some tourists, occasionally a starred chef, Bertrand Grébaut or Jean-François Piège to name them.

© Felix Dol Maillot

Back to simplicity

It is the busiest “burger joint” in Paris, a city which nevertheless did not lack addresses for the so-called “gourmet” hamburgers with foie gras, Fourme d’Ambert or truffles. Charles Ganem and Samuel Nataf simply made the burger they loved: a simple and comforting fast food sandwich that evokes universal childhood memories. And too bad the ketchup isn’t homemade and the cheese doesn’t come from a 21-month aged wheel of farm cheddar to get this done. Would we approach the indigestion of good products? Would the old-fashioned loaf of sourdough bread for the price of a movie ticket suddenly become less desirable? In times of runaway inflation, is the safe haven rather that of comfort? In London, an unpretentious café has unintentionally become a cult object among gourmets in just a few months: Norman’s. The reason for its success? An Instagram account with a normcore aesthetic where ultra-minimalist photos of dishes are posted every week, with no other comment except the title of the menu, more likely to evoke the canteen of our childhood than a restaurant in sight: sausage and mash, peas and bacon, breaded scallops, beans on toast, egg and home fries served with a tea bag… unpretentious home cooking, each picture of which can win up to 7,000 likes.

A new era

This victory of banality over a social network algorithm that has always favored spectacular dishes and breathtaking video montages has the air of a new era. Never before have we seen so many stories of burned chefs on screens: in 2022, the excellent series “The Bear” thus featured a trendy chef who leaves the world of gastronomy to occupy the filthy scullery of his brother’s delicatessen in Chicago. In a 1:34 long take, the film “The Chef” chronicled the slow cracking of an entire kitchen brigade during a nightmarish service. And this fall, we saw in “Le Menu,” Ralph Fiennes play a burnout star chef who has taken his guests hostage. A horror comedy largely inspired by the establishments of the new Scandinavian cuisine which, for ten years, have been dictating the codes of world haute cuisine and whose maximum embodiment is Noma, a 3-star restaurant located in Copenhagen, nominated five times as best restaurant in the world . It is in these kitchens, where hundreds of chefs carry out a titanic work of research and innovation, that some of the most profound transformations of this beginning of the century have taken place, such as the advent of vegetables and fermentation, or the local ultra-cuisine, inspired to the surrounding nature, hostile and magnificent. The menu costs 500 euros excluding wine and is made up of a dozen sequences, each dish can involve the work of a dozen cooks through more than a hundred gestures. Reservations are filled months in advance and the Noma model has been copied endlessly around the world. However, on Monday January 9, chef René Redzepi announced the imminent closure of the restaurant, explaining that the gastronomic system he helped erect had reached breaking point. “It’s unbearable,” he told the New York Times. Financially and emotionally, as an employer and as a human being, it just doesn’t work. »

Holybelly - HB5 - June 2022 ©albindurand(@_albin_) - ID 001 - 3969

©Albin Durand

The phenomenon is global: since Covid, which has made restaurant professionals rediscover what real life was like without hellish schedules, there is no place in the world, from New York to Tokyo, that does not suffer from a cruel lack of staff qualified . Those who stay often rightly ask for better working conditions (hours, salaries), prompting restaurateurs to rethink their economic model already heavily impacted 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 restaurants. But their dream was to serve popular and simply good dishes, without excessive condiments, on a Formica table, at honest prices. Gastronomy will not disappear, it will always be the field of unbridled creative expression. But now it could coexist with a “slower” model focused on the original mission of restaurants: to restore body and soul.

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