The American passion for roving restaurants on wheels, otherwise known as food trucks, has migrated across the Atlantic.
From New York to Los Angeles, the sinful drenched allure of high-end fast food served from catering trucks like Baby’s Badass Gourmet Burgers, or Kogi’s Korean BBQ taco truck, has captured the hearts and stomachs in Paris, France.
“Younger Parisians are really into the New York food scene and the California lifestyle,” said Jordan Feilders, 28, who recently started Cantine California in Paris. “There’s a good trans-Atlantic food vibe going on Twitter and Facebook.”
Cantine California sells tacos stuffed with organic meat which is rare in France. Another popular truck in Paris is called Le Camion Qui Fume (The Smoking Truck), owned by Kristin Frederick, a California native who graduated from culinary school in France.
Kristin’s burger with fries sells for 10 euros, about $13.
“I got every kind of push-back,” said Kristin, 31. “People said: ‘The French will never eat on the street. The French will never eat with their hands. They will never pay good money for food from a truck.’”
“And, ‘You will never get permission from the authorities.’”
But Kristin did get permission, and New York Times writer Julia Moskin watched as Parisians lined up at Kristin’s truck, which was parked at the north end of the Canal St.-Martin on the Right Bank, on a recent Sunday evening.
“It’s against my religion to wait for a burger,” said Guillaume Farges, who was near the front of the line, which began to form at 5:30 p.m., though the truck would not open until 7. “But for this one, I make an exception.”
“As vintage clothing shops propped open their doors nearby and two young men strummed guitars outside a gallery, the smell of onions caramelizing wafted out over the cobblestones,” writes Moskin.
Moskin says that in France, there is still a widespread belief that the daily diet in the United States consists primarily of massively large servings of fast food.
But 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,” Moskin says.
Moskin reminds readers that street food itself isn’t new to France, where there are trucks selling snacks like pizza, crepes or spicy Moroccan merguez sausages, but street food made by chefs, using restaurant-grade ingredients, technique and technology, is very new.
Instead of buying ingredients at a wholesale market outside Paris that caters to chefs, twenty-eight year-old Feilders, who owns Cantine California, deals with a cooperative in the Poitou-Charentes region that distributes certified organic beef and pork.
Feilders also buys from a mill in the Rhône-Alpes that sells organic flour, and imports items like pork carnitas and chipotles directly from Mexico.
Gilles Choukroun, a French chef, told Moskin that about five years ago chefs in France began to pay attention to street food, as they saw their counterparts in New York, Los Angeles and London trying new ideas outside the confines of a restaurant kitchen.
“The French understand that many new cuisines are coming to light in your country,” he wrote Moskin in an e-mail. “There are more and more young leaders in the U.S., creating a truly new and interesting cuisine.”
But American chefs were the first to get food trucks rolling in France.
Kristin muddled through four separate Paris bureaucracies, and unlike in the United States, food trucks in Paris are not allowed to search for parking spots, or casually roam around neighborhoods. They are assigned to certain markets and days.
But since the opening day for Kristin’s truck, she has sold every last burger on every shift. And Moskin says her truck has received publicity most chefs can only dream about.
“Its first weeks were covered obsessively on the many English-language blogs — Hip Paris, David Lebovitz, Paris by Mouth and Lost in Cheeseland — that chronicle the Paris food scene.”