Los Angeles’ first ever Le Grand Fooding event takes place this weekend at MOCA. If you aren’t familiar with the Frenchie crew, Zagat calls them “the general arbiters of culinary cool” and Time Magazine says they put on “the coolest food events known to man.” Convinced?
All of us here at Good Food are fans, so we asked Le Fooding’s leading man, Alexandre Cammas, to tell us about his inspiration for Le Fooding and what he and his Parisian pals think of LA’s dining scene.
What was your inspiration for starting Le Fooding?
The new, interesting locales look like their chef and owner. This new type of chef or restaurateur makes us dream much more than the ones beating themselves up to have a Michelin star or for losing one. Those chefs are actually only sous-chefs, as they are led by desires that are not their own. These restaurants supported by Le Fooding correspond to independent cinéma: a “taulier” who wants to make you live an experience, share his passion with you…not a passion that was dictated, a sincere passion.
To promote these “freed” chefs, we started organizing events in 2000 because we didn’t own a magazine or book like Michelin does. As journalists/foodwriters, we used event planning in lieu of media, to promote the chefs and the artists we liked and the philosophy we had. Events enable us to change the codes, because they are ephemeral. And with every event we hope to help firmly change the codes, for good.
What has been the response to Le Fooding in France? Is it a generational phenomenon?
Thanks to Le Fooding and a few more individual initiatives (such as the “néobistrot” invention, the “cave à manger” etc.), France has rediscovered little by little the love to eat, dine, and enjoy restaurants without over-thinking it. In a certain way, France has regained what an elite gastronomy took away, establishing an elite culture of cuisine, inaccessible to anyone who doesn’t know how to taste a grand wine and smoke a grand cigar.
Inevitably, this challenged so many certainties, and most of all, so many “imperator” chefs, that Le Fooding didn’t really make friends in the process. However, the public and more and more blooming chefs, between 25 and 45 years-old, praise these changes service after service.
You’ve done events in both New York and San Francisco, what inspired you to come to LA?/ So far, what is your impression of food in Los Angeles ?
Los Angeles has always been high on inspiration. It is the city where local and tasty ingredients consistently come first. A simple grilled side of pork with salt and pepper can become an experience. Same for a taco or a bo bun. It is the capital of culinary combinations, full of fusion restaurants, Unidentified Food Objects, and dude chefs envied by everyone! It is a new territory and sets new culinary frontiers and home of the world’s best food trucks. It is also the only place where movie stars smile when they eat crispy pig head, and where cuisine carbonates with cool and slowly swallows 502.7 miles of not-exactly-digestible urban tentacles.
Where have you eaten since you’ve been here? Any favorites?
My favorites are the chefs participating to the event (Ludo Lefebvre, Nancy Silverton, Jordan Kahn, Carolynn Spence, Roy Choi, Josef Centeno). The only ones missing are the Animal dudes. They were part of Le Grand Fooding Milan and Le Grand Fooding NY, but they weren’t available this weekend due to a busy schedule. Too bad. But Angelenos have 365 days a year to have dinner at their restaurants.
What is the most Le Fooding-friendly restaurant you’ve seen in LA?
The ones which welcomed us the best? Or the ones that match our criteria the best? I particularly like Pho Café in Silver Lake. Really cheap. Open all the time. Very fresh, very good. Not pretentious. It has never been easy to cultivate simplicity in cooking. One must be very good to treat people with simple things.
You often do events at museums. Do you think of food as art?
Having palace chefs serving street food is a way to promote our philosophy. Holding our giant picnics, cooked by star chefs, in art institutions, is another way to take food outside of the restaurants.
I understand more and more young American chefs are opening restaurants in Paris. How are they received by Parisians?
With open arms. They bring a cooler spirit while delivering a cuisine of excellent quality, because in a way they have things to prove to Parisians, Parisian chefs and the rest of the world.
In this category, I very much like Daniel Rose’s Spring. And, indirectly, Gregory Marchand’s Frenchie. He’s a French chef but he learned all his trade in London and NY!
What are the main differences between the events in France and the US? // Is the focus always on the high end restaurant and celebrity chef or do you use the events to introduce new emerging chefs?
Le Fooding is the only festive gastronomic event all around the world. According to Time Magazine, we do “the coolest food events known to man”. Zagat calls us “general arbiters of culinary cool”. We are very proud of both! Le Grand Fooding is not and will never be an high end ceremony in which celebrity chefs would be Gods. Whatever the city, Le Grand Fooding is a different story each time, in which different actors come to play their part with great pleasure. May they be star chefs, emerging chefs, graphic designers, musicians, stylists…Nothing compares to it, we are very open and welcome all curious and epicurean people, not only Foodies. The success we have in world lifestyle capitals (Paris, NY, Milan and now LA) attests of this originality.