Industry Insiders: Alexandre Cammas, Le Spécialiste
The founder of Le Fooding, the most iconoclastic food movement in France, on air conditioning, dandyism, and his culinary expertise.
How would you describe yourself? You’d be better off asking one of my colleagues. They’d be more objective. To sum it up simply: curious, persistent, mixed, free.
Name three restaurants/bars/clubs you like and why? I love too many to list just three, so I’ll try to choose three who can respond to two criteria: good and cool. To find a mix of these two in France is rare. Le Chateaubriand, a unique restaurant, is sexy, gourmet, alive, déclassé, and they do their own thing. A French cultural exception. Racines is a wine bar and restaurant in an old Parisian covered passage. Sublime products, treated with respect by a patron who has one of the best natural wine lists in Paris. Rose Bakery, a snack place, tea-house, luxury grocery store, full of soul, no décor— except for the food itself, salads full of freshness, cooked on the spot, cake pans overflowing. They have a great clientèle with lots of cinema people, reasonable prices, and the size of the bill is inversely proportional to your soulful experience.
Who do you admire in the hospitality industry? Jean-Louis Costes and Yves Camdeborde, for the same reasons but not at the same level. The first decided to reinvent the French café, the brasserie, to think outside the box, to import the world of design to the French restaurant business. He took great risks, listened to no one, and became a great success. It’s so easy to distinguish his establishments from the multiple copycats. Yves Cambdeborde, former chef at the Crillon hotel, did it his way, listened to no one, and reinvented the gastro-bistrot, accessible to anyone. Without him, we wouldn’t have all these good bistros that assure our reputation with all those fine gourmets, for whom most of the Michelin-starred establishments are just for soulless tourists.
Name one positive trend that you see in the hospitality industry. Silent air conditioning. Because, in general, I don’t like air conditioning.
Negative trends? Noisy air conditioning. I also hate hotels where you can’t open the windows. Like in Tokyo.
What is something that people might not know about you? I snore when I sleep on my back, but not when I sleep on my stomach. So, there are worse people out there.
What are you doing tonight? I go out and eat every lunchtime, so, in the evenings , I go back to my place. This evening, for example, I’m going to finish The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou, a sublime book on the condition of blacks in 1960s America. Then I’ll surely attack L’Exposition by Nathalie Léger, a short text on feminine dandyism. And then maybe I’ll get up again and write down on paper all the new whims that are inside of me to be able to sleep in peace.
Most anticipated event you have coming up in 2009? The first Le Fooding event in New York in September of this year, with a 99.99 % chance of happening.