SEEDS OF CHANGE

A COM­MU­NITY OF RESTAU­RANTS AND PROVE­DORES WITH A FO­CUS ON SUS­TAIN­ABLE, LO­CAL AND OR­GANIC PRO­DUCE IS TAK­ING A STEP AWAY FROM PARIS’S NO­TO­RI­OUSLY STUFFY FOOD CUL­TURE

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - W - STORY ALICE CA­VANAGH

Last year when word spread around Paris that much-loved Ar­gen­tinian restau­rant Anahi would be closing its doors, the lo­cals were bereft. The low-lit bistro was the per­fect late-night haunt to en­joy a suc­cu­lent faux­filet and a glass of Mal­bec, not to men­tion celebrity spot­ting: pho­tog­ra­pher Mario Testino and designer Haider Ack­er­mann were reg­u­lars. Soon af­ter, even big­ger news emerged: a new land­lord, un­known Parisian busi­ness­man Cedric Naudon, had ac­quired not just Anahi, but im­prob­a­bly, a to­tal of 35 prop­er­ties on and around the Haut Marais’s rue du Vert­bois.

While many wealthy en­trepreneurs have high­tailed it out of Paris to avoid the high taxes and fussy em­ployee con­tracts, Naudon has in­vested a ru­moured

30 mil­lion-plus on this devel­op­ment, a project he has called La Je­une Rue (The Young Street). His plan: to in­stall a ready-made utopian Parisian com­mu­nity where qual­ity pro­duce, con­cerned with sus­tain­abil­ity, is mar­ried with mod­ern de­sign.

The cho­sen quartier, be­tween the hubs of Republique and Arts et Metiers, was pre­vi­ously a no man’s land save for a few fab­ric shops, cheap jew­ellery stores and the elec­tronic cig­a­rette sell­ers that have re­cently be­come ubiq­ui­tous in Paris. Now you’ll find the re­opened and re­vamped Anahi; Korean restau­rant Ibaji Coren, of­fer­ing a fresh, sea­sonal ap­proach to street food, and de­signed by Paola Navone; and Pan, a Si­cil­ian restau­rant a few min­utes away from the main precinct on rue Mar­tel. Over the next 12 months, a fro­magerie, a patis­serie, a wild oys­ter bar, a creperie, an Ital­ian restau­rant, and a speakeasy will fol­low. Each space has been cou­pled with a high-pro­file designer — Tom Dixon and Jasper Mor­ri­son are among the other names on the list.

Fancy trap­pings aside, when I meet with Naudon — an im­mense man who is never with­out a colour­ful silk scarf — he in­sists that the real star of La Je­une Rue will be the pro­duce. “We want it to be ac­ces­si­ble to ev­ery­one, we don’t want it to be a luxury place; just some­thing beau­ti­ful with good prod­ucts all in the one place. France has amaz­ing prod­ucts, but on Satur­days I used to have to travel all over Paris to find the right in­gre­di­ents — now there’s no need.”

In Paris, the or­ganic or “bio” food move­ment has been slow-mov­ing com­pared with other ma­jor in­ter­na­tional cities. Aside from the en­dur­ing rit­ual of shop­ping at weekly farm­ers’ mar­kets, there are only a few re­tail­ers — Nat­u­ralia and Bio C’est Moi — and the prod­uct is of­ten ex­pen­sive, the se­lec­tion unin­spir­ing. Naudon hopes to change all that. His team have spent the past two years cru­sad­ing around France look­ing for qual­ity sup­pli­ers to work with: those who pri­ori­tise sus­tain­able farm­ing meth­ods, such as the per­ma­cul­ture Bec-Hol­louin farm in Nor­mandy, which is now the main veg­etable sup­plier for La Je­une Rue. In all, the team deal with more than 600 farm­ers di­rectly and have al­most en­tirely cut out the mid­dle­man, to en­sure not only that the prod­uct is as fresh as pos­si­ble but also that the prices re­main rea­son­able.

“There is an elit­ist rep­u­ta­tion in the or­ganic trend but

“WE DON’T WANT IT TO BE A LUXURY PLACE; JUST SOME­THING BEAU­TI­FUL WITH GOOD PROD­UCTS”

The bright in­te­rior of Korean restau­rant Ibaji Coren, the first La Je­une Rue restau­rant to open

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