"This place is not ideal, there is no ideal, we must constantly adapt to the constraints, but it has become our ideal as people feel good here. As long as customers visit and come back – some even several times a day – it's very satisfying."
Is Maison Plisson what you imagined it would be?
I had in mind something bigger and more fluid. It was a very personal crazy idea and very creative but I quickly discovered the joys of the French regulations. There are many elements, strictly related to the country's legislation, that are impossible to anticipate. Unlike London, for example, or the United States, here you cannot eat next to a stall or sell fruit in the middle of a restaurant. It's a country very attached to food and hygiene. Dividing lines are mandatory. In short, you are never as free as in your dreams.
Does the ideal place exist?
It's hard to say. When you're expecting a baby, you have an ideal and then in the end, lots of things happen that you had not anticipated. You have to adapt constantly. This place has become our ideal, as people feel good here. As long as customers visit and come back – some even several times a day – it's very satisfying. I found that “living” in this neighborhood was becoming a real issue. There are fewer and fewer food offerings in the area, the vast majority of food stores having been sold to service and clothing stores.
And the neighborhood?
I have always been certain about this neighborhood for two reasons. The first is that, in my view, it is quite central. The second is that there are fewer and fewer food offerings in the area. I found that “living” in this neighborhood was becoming a real issue, the majority of food shops having been sold to service and clothing stores. The mayor of the 3rd arrondissement was aware of this and found our project had great appeal.
Could there be a second Maison Plisson?
If everything goes well, yes. And we will do things differently in it. Even so, the basic plan of combining restaurant and shop will remain the same.
This place has become our ideal, as people feel good here. As long as customers visit and come back – some even several times a day – it's very satisfying.
Originally, you wanted to re-establish a relationship with producers and we realize that this is one of the most successful elements, it must make you feel very happy?
It took us a year to find our products. We've received samples from producers who spontaneously sent us their products every single day for the past two years. Not to mention our customers who come back from their vacation with a fish canning address, a pâté... it's crazy, we discover loads of products like that.
By a spontaneous gesture of your customers?
Yes, to which we devote a third of our time in September. They all come back from their vacation with something they would like to suggest to us, it's great! It ranges from the sheep farmer to cheese, to charcuterie or pastries. Our project is fundamentally based on pleasure. And on common sense too, which requires us not to sell products that have had a long journey time.
The next Maison Plisson will only offer local produce then?
The ideal would be to import dry products, which have fewer problems with sell-by dates – so grocery products, drinks for the cellar etc. – and to make French dishes on site, with local products. This was the principle of our pop-up in Japan; we made salads with products sourced there. It was great, it allowed us to share and build bridges between our national heritage and theirs.
You could become an ambassador for French cuisine over there…
Of course, but without meat or leeks. By proposing to give new takes to local products, yes.
What is your main activity?
We are first and foremost selectors. But we also make many things, products we produce ourselves, charcuterie, we process many meat products and we prepare cheese-based dishes. Of course, we are also a restaurant with, and this is a real subject, all imaginable pastries and breads.
It’s a wonderful trade…
The most pleasant thing is to feel a desire in our customers to support the producers, including the restaurant. At first, people complained about the price of our ham. But when they looked closer, they realized that it is cheaper per kilo than two slices of industrial ham sold in vacuum packs. Cheaper and from a single pig – not 10 different ones and 30% water – raised in the open air and grain fed on the farm.
Is it sociologically interesting to do this work?
Yes, it's a trade. You are confronted with complaints from customers, you do things thinking that it will make them happy and it produces the opposite effect… But it's really worth looking at customer reviews, some are really sweet. TripAdvisor is a risky tool; two weeks ago, a man gave us 5 stars (at the moment we only have 5 stars, it's really thanks to our teams and our service). He told us he had been once and left us a 1-star rating – as good as zero – because of Maison Plisson's hype that made him hate the place even before trying it. But despite that he came back and really enjoyed it, thought it was good and loved the team. In short, he admitted that he had been totally wrong and I was very touched by that.