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Jul 18, 2014 02:24 PM

Disappointed by LE FOODING these days. And you?

For anyone who doesn't know it, used to be the edgy insurrectionist young gastronomic guide in Paris. Recently, however, I've found it to have gone really mainstream and commercial, or no longer as willing to see off sacred cows as it once was. Instead, it seems really interested in celebrities, cross-branding and click-bait. Curious to know what the rest of you think.

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  1. For my purposes. it still beats most of the alternatives.

    1. Its recommendations for Paris have been notso-hotso. I much prefer the recommendations by certain hounds on this board.
      Outside Paris, I find lefooding still reliable.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Parigi

        It's good for hooks, not recommendations. What I want is a name and description that I can start cross-checking. It's one of the early kids on the block.

      2. I can't agree with Andaba. Maybe the problem is that the type of innovative cuisine that Lefooding usually champions has become way more common and is now, in many ways, not all that "alternative" just by force of numbers. And the commercialism that always tags along with popularity is therefore a little more obvious. I for one appreciate their special events and promos. And celebrities ?! Do you mean the "Leurs Restos Préférés" section which has always been on the web-site for as long as I can remember ? Sometimes when there is nothing new to cover it rotates to front-page status and might give an impression that it's more important than it actually is. But it remains, as it has always been, a secondary feature and simply represents the French curiosity about celebs and, in this case, largely hip ones.

        The writing has become less edgy and a little more cutesy but the reviews still remain a good read. And lefooding is usually the first on the scene at new openings. For me who can only take so much of trad, their coverage (albeit limited) of modern places in the often hidebound provinces is a godsend. By only complaint is that for some reason or other lots of places once reviewed very favourably are inexplicably dropped in a year or two. Maybe it's just space management.

        As a relatively hip 30-something, I don't see any good alternative. When thinking about where to eat in this or that quartier, it's my first -- but not only-- stop.

        16 Replies
        1. re: Parnassien

          I agree that Le Fooding's reporting remains useful, but find their judgment has seriously fallen off. Two examples:
          Their review of this mediocre and really gimmicky restaurant called Balls:
          And their shock horror review of the worst restaurant to open in Paris this year with no tongue-in-cheek or criticism of any kind:
          So yes, perhaps, to the utility of their reporting, but I'd insist that their critical judgment has seriously dulled in Paris and that I sniff more than a whiff of PR complicity around some of their recent reviews. I also agree, though, that their churn in the provinces is peculiar shading to capricious. And insofar as an alternative is concerned, they're bushels of good ones, like parisbymouth, davidlebovitz, alexanderlobrano, patriciawells, caroline mignot, etc., etc.

          1. re: andaba

            Interestingly, I find more personal bias in those you name as alternatives. But, of course, once you sort that out, you do have additional input.

            1. re: andaba

              I would also add that I notice your links are for the English version. Somehow, like a menu, it reads a lot better in French than in translation.

              1. re: mangeur

                As far as I know, this is an English-language chat, which is why the links are in English, and I can't imagine what 'personal bias' you might find in my fleeting off-the-cuff reference to the happily large number of seriously good bloggers in both French and English who keep us well informed and well fed. And whether in French or English, the reviews of Balls and the Grilled Cheese Factory refer to decidedly horrific restaurants that would never have gotten a look-in from Le Fooding when it first started out, hence my original post.

                1. re: andaba

                  The personal bias certainly didn't refer to you but rather to the blogs. Blogs are essentially written as an expression of personal opinion so it would be quite out of the norm, IMHO, for a blog to aim for scientific neutrality. When it comes to food, personal taste and preference are hard to overcome.

                  eta, all I have tried to say is that I find Le Fooding a valuable tool in learning about new dining rooms in Paris and insolite places I might miss in the country. LF is never the last word for me, any more than any recommendation from newspaper, blog or word of mouth. These are all tools that help us find the food we are looking for.

                  1. re: mangeur

                    Le Fooding was always about the trend more than about the food.
                    (Just edited this post to add: but that is not a sufficient reason to reject it. It generally did well, and still does well, under these conditions. Not to mention the fact that trendy and good can sometimes be associated.)

                    The ratio allotted to either one of the two values fluctuated over the years — at the beginning and during the first years of the printed guide, it was rather serious about food while never losing track of the main denominator. That was when I was part of the team and roamed Paris & some of the provinces in search of suitable restaurants. However the main requirement was that they had to be "Fooding", i.e. trendy and modern without being stuffy. Places that were too "haute cuisine" or a little bourgeois at the edges were eliminated, but the places that were too "proletarian" i.e. real popular bistrots were not suitable either (too "France d'en bas", a formulation that the French speakers among us will understand). The place had to include all the markers of the affluent young urban bourgeoisie, hence a certain amount of uniformity, but serious work was done, yielding serious references.
                    Their amateurism as a food review entity sometimes showed in a rather surprising way (i.e. their first review of Verjus, a sorry festival of anti-american misconceptions that revealed a chauvinistic, closed-mind, mouldy-french side to their personality) but on the whole the quality of the info was good.

                    I think one could discern three successive eras in Le Fooding's life cycle:

                    - First, the enthusiastic beginnings when the idea was fresh (though never wholly defined) and it was marching along with other more substantial trends like la bistronomie and les vins nature; that was the time of rather brilliant and spectacular food events like the unforgettable Fooding d'Hiver 2002 at the Palais de Tokyo, which was never equalled since.

                    - An intermediate period when Le Fooding was still juggling with its various components, whose disparity started being a problem — that was when I worked with them; incidentally that was also when some major original collaborators left the ship on the grounds of a "lack of content", and when big sponsors began to support the organization. The regular publishing of the printed guide seemed to point to the way to go.

                    - Third period as I see it is the current period; ambitions have been redefined and the "think-tank" function mostly erased — that means less public presence and more publishing efficiency. Much energy is devoted to the guide (both paper and online) and not so much to the crazy food events, the focus has gone more towards the "style" as defined above as to the actual quality of the food; a special stress is put on celebrities (a relatively new trend), the sponsor machine seems to be functioning at full throttle (in these conditions, why insist on keeping the "contenu" (content) standards afloat?), and the restaurant guide activity is now doubling as a guest room/chambres d'hôtes/nice housing facilities guide, which might be a good idea and secures Le Fooding into its current place as the n°1 lifestyle reference guide for the rich trendy bourgeois crowd (the word bobo is absent from my vocabulary owing to its lack... of content).

                    This is to say that the social layer aspect is really important in Le Fooding's choice of restaurants, a characteristic that seems to have increased in the last few years. Le Fooding is now better organized, less of an iconoclast (which is never really was after all), and has followed the opposite way to where Omnivore — their Nemesis — went (briefly: purchased by a big international events group, huge hollow shell and a big food-themed money machine without any content or innovation now happily roaming the world).

                    It was not clear a few years ago where Le Fooding and Omnivore would go; now it seems that Le Fooding has remained more true to its (ever-flimsy) nature, and is at least providing a consistent service, a service whose limits should be kept in mind, but still a pretty good one, considering.

                    1. re: Ptipois

                      " However the main requirement was that they had to be "Fooding", i.e. trendy and modern without being stuffy. Places that were too "haute cuisine" or a little bourgeois at the edges were eliminated, but the places that were too "proletarian" i.e. real popular bistrots were not suitable either (too "France d'en bas", a formulation that the French speakers among us will understand). The place had to include all the markers of the affluent young urban bourgeoisie "

                      A nice little summary of why I found it a horrid little rag. Which is not so say that it isn't useful. But so profoundly petit bourgeois, bobo above all else.

                  2. re: andaba

                    "And whether in French or English, the reviews of Balls and the Grilled Cheese Factory refer to decidedly horrific restaurants that would never have gotten a look-in from Le Fooding when it first started out, hence my original post."

                    Indeed we reel from the ink that is allotted to this type of current and popular eatery. Nor would I spend a nano-second in line at a food truck. But these are the trends of our times. I have no doubt that neither of us would be tempted to visit either of your examples, but they do illustrate the kinds of new food venues that the (French) public is interested in supporting.

                    Perhaps this is what you meant by PR driven, but in the larger scheme of things, a reporting vehicle (i.e., Le Fooding) has to write about the kinds of places that their constituency wants to read about and to patronize.

                    1. re: mangeur

                      Pti - thanks for the very great insight - very interesting.
                      And I think it goes to Mangeurs point that Le Fooding is a French food guide targeted at a local audience and local audience that isn't rooted in tradition, in fact an audience that wants to be on trend.

                      And a big generalisation is that the tourists and Francophile long stay visitors want the tradition of French gastronomy. Whilst the locals (and expats) are keen to see a good mix including those cutting edge modern places - many with very international influence - and this is what Le Fooding always reflected.

                      And maybe when it started "on trend” in France was bistronomique or neo-bistro so the at the time modern French food was harking back to a tradition and Le Fooding seemed to reflect real French gastronomy.

                      1. re: PhilD

                        All of that seems quite correct to me, Phil.

                2. re: andaba

                  Remember that French people tend to like American things that we (north) American find ordinary (bagels, lobster rolls, pulled pork and now meatballs, grilled cheese, Charlie Chaplin, Woody Allen...)

                  As a North American, I would never eat at those places; they are created mostly for locals in need of something "exotic"

                  (or expats in need of something more homely)

                  I've read both versions (english and french) and they feel the same.

                  1. re: andaba

                    Haha...I just stumbled upon this posting. I recently found myself questioning if Le Fooding is still the go to source for Paris that it once was. It sounds like it is. But I haven't been to Paris since 2009 and have no way to know but even better is the reaction to grilled cheese. I grew up in the US and can tell you that grilled cheese (the word "sandwich" is's just grilled cheese for some reason, I know it's strange now that I'm thinking about it) holds a warm corner in a lot of American hearts. I'll tell you's the kind of meal that your grandmother made you on days when you were home sick from school or you just found out that you didn't make the baseball team or you got stung by a bee and your foot swelled up (or more recently in had 1 extra drink the night before and your head is a little foggy). Yes, it's made with crap white bread, processed cheese and griddled in butter/margarine...depending on how sick or sad you were, you could even dunk it in a crappy bowl of canned Campbell's tomato soup but none of that mattered when you were feeling awful. It was a thing of beauty and it's healing powers rivaled any current, trendy, tropical berry dietary supplement. Admittedly, it is bizarre that Paris has a dedicated grill cheese restaurant but from my view, it's not as strange as you may think. As far as the mac & cheese stuffed grilled cheeses...that's surely a riff on the LA food truck scene. I have tried a couple unadvised stuffing(s) into a grilled cheese and I felt a little sad afterwards. Maybe it's because I knew my grandma (bless her soul) would never stuff Texas chili, fried mozzarella sticks and crumbled Dorito nacho chips into her grilled cheese....seems a bit egregious but LA can be a strange place. My guess is that it will either hit or miss in Paris but never be an important part of your food scene. But I won't even dare mention the burger... Funny thing, the other day I shared a table with a mid-20's French woman at one of our local, hipster bakeries and she mentioned the "burger sandwich" trend with eyes rolling back and all I could think was how strange the word sandwich sounds when added to the word burger. I digress...think of the grilled cheese "sandwich" as a re-gift. My guess is the original grilled cheese is a bad interpretation of a croque-monsieur "sandwich" (touché!). It would be akin to a french toast (AKA-pain perdu) restaurant opening in Paris. It could be called The American French Toast Factory of Paris....brilliant!

                    1. re: jacksonkev

                      "As far as the mac & cheese stuffed grilled cheeses...that's surely a riff on the LA food truck scene."

                      I agree. Still not good!

                      "My guess is the original grilled cheese is a bad interpretation of a croque-monsieur "sandwich" (touché!)."

                      Agree again.

                      1. re: jacksonkev

                        I've never heard anyone, french or not, saying a "burger sandwich"...
                        Sometimes french people say "un cheese" instead of cheeseburger though.

                        1. re: jacksonkev

                          jacksonkev: you are spot on re the nostalgia factor of grilled cheese, but as for your description -- <it's made with crap white bread, processed cheese and griddled in butter/margarine...depending on how sick or sad you were, you could even dunk it in a crappy bowl of canned Campbell's tomato soup> -- is SO far from what's being offered under that name that it's barely recognizable. It's all delicious!

                        2. re: andaba

                          I'm not sure that the two examples illustrate a "falling off" of judgement or simply your different style and taste. I haven't actually sampled Balls menu but I did make 2 attempts... I came, I saw, I left because it was too noisy and too crowded (with very hip 20- and 30-somethings as expected on the rue Saint Maur). And it certainly continues to be favoured by hip French bloggers and the not so hip Figaro so there is obviously some appeal to locals there in contrast to your opinion that it's mediocre. Lefooding does tend to like street food and North American influences viz the coverage of The Grilled Cheese Factory... probably an unworthy genre for North Americans but, for Parisiens, rather exotic. But so are the food trucks, juice bars, and tacos joints that lefooding also lists. I personally have no interest in this kind of stuff but many other Parisiens in lefooding's target audience do.

                          PR companies are indeed very active in restaurant promotion. But I think lefooding does tend to avoid the PR web that entangles most other food sites and has better intelligence from word of mouth. Example: a friend and I stumbled on an Algerian grillade in the 14th... we thought it was a gem... and texted another friend who was dating one of the lefooding guys about it... the next week there was a review in

                      2. I remember looking at Le Fooding for a while, but I noticed a distinct change at some point and lost interest. I don't even have it bookmarked anymore, but might read it when it comes up in a search on a particular establishment.

                        "And whether in French or English, the reviews of Balls and the Grilled Cheese Factory refer to decidedly horrific restaurants that would never have gotten a look-in from Le Fooding when it first started out, hence my original post."

                        When I heard about the Grilled Cheese Factory, I went to the website and actually ended up texting the link to a number of friends because I thought it was so ridiculous. It's like (American) annual state fair stunt food that one eats once a year - the most deep-fried wins - not a menu of food where people will return again and again.

                        I don't think the French and expats in the food business are known (and may not want to be known) for their expert takes on macaroni and cheese in the first place, so to have a questionable mac and cheese stuffed inside of a "grilled cheese" sandwich on offer? No, thanks.

                        I've liked trying new-to-Paris snack food/fast food *some* of the time the past few years. Sometimes the food is well-made, like Frenchie to Go. Sometimes the food is mostly mediocre; the quality for the higher-than-average price just isn't there; and there's no atmosphere/decor or creature comforts which might explain a higher price, so I wouldn't visit again (all of the above applies to The Sunken Chip). In some places, like The Club, the fairly good but quite expensive sandwiches end up being an accessory to well-made cocktails/other attributes and not the focus, and thus it survives/thrives whether its main gimmick truly caught on or not.

                        But I think Paris may be nearing its nadir in regards to successful restaurants of this type which depend on the food - often one type of food - to be their main attraction. The novelty will probably wear off, just as it has periodically with some restaurants and chains in America (IMO we are approaching critical mass with franchised cold-pressed/'raw' juice bars).

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: GetLucky

                          Get lucky - hopefully the world is moving on from "Dude Food" which characterized new hip places in a Paris, London, and Hong Kong and Sydney. So I suspect Le Fooding is simply reflecting food fashion of the moment rather than having a bent for dude food.....I wonder where we will head next...?

                          Having moved from HK to Sydney recently it seems Latin food is still on the rise, and old school "surburban" Chinese seems to be the latest novelty - sweet and sour pork etc. I wonder if either of these will start tobe on trend in a Paris as it's seems to follow hip food trends rather than lead (which may not be a bad thing).

                          Maximilian - I wonder if the dude food trend is more about the global trend rather than the French hipsters looking to the US. Lots of the action in Paris hip restaurants seems to be based more on the global trends that happened to be US inspired hot dogs, mac'n'cheese, burgers etc.

                          1. re: PhilD

                            "Dude food" - That's a very good name for it.

                            In addition to your two could-be trends, I don't think BBQ (barbecued meats such as chicken, beef, pork, smoked Texas-style or cooked Kansas City- style) has hit Paris in a major way yet. But I don't know if BBQ will translate overseas, with the different cuts of meat and different tenderness likes and dislikes.

                   the Paris food festival in April, we didn't arrive in time for the Fri-Sat hours, but there were two different BBQ vendors scheduled on those days. One supposedly had an actual smoker (the Beast?) to cook his meats and is planning a restaurant, and the other one is called Floyd's Bar and Grill, in the 10th. The online menu has "Authentique Kansas City BBQ Ribs" and "Rabbit and Waffle" which is a play on the American "chicken and waffles", I would guess.

                            1. re: GetLucky

                              BBQ is travelling, we have it in Sydney, it was permeating through HK and is (was) big in London with Pitt Cue being very on trend. just give it time.

                              1. re: PhilD

                                Bbq ribs and bbq chicken are not unknown here and have been known for some time. But never to the point of creating a cultural storm as burgers have. And the great art of American barbecue remains rather unknown here; how could it be otherwise? PRs are after superficial trends, not culinary styles. They wouldn't care about serious BBQ any more than they would about serious chilli crab or serious dim sum. They only scrape off the visible parts and reuse them in the most rudimentary way possible. Hence the dreadful Parisian interpretations of burgers, hot dogs and fish and chips. (Frenchie To Go not included in this rant; for it is a chef's project with true concern for taste and how food should be made.)

                                Truly, London is far more talented than Paris in conveying culinary styles with minimal honesty. Here, the PR crap spoils everything. Yesterday, I had ackee and saltfish on rice and beans on a wooden bench at Spitalfields Market and it was delicious, and well made. Who knows what Paris would have made of it under PR influence.

                        2. Dear all,
                          Sorry to be late !

                          First off, sincerely, as the founder of Le Fooding, it is really a true honor to see that we are so closely followed by such sharp people. I'm not trying to flatter, but I can say that despite my approximative English, I was able to see real, justified arguments in both camps. Moreover, I noticed that there aren't really "two camps," and since I tend to like non-binary debates, I can tell you that this chat delights me. So I will try to be as brief and sincere as possible in order to bring my modest two cents to the table.

                          Yes, there is an American craze that has really won us over these last couple of years, in effect formidably boosted by excellent addresses like Frenchie to go or le Camion qui fume, and it's inevitably starting to feel a little suffocating (as is the case with all trends, as I imagine you yourself will eventually get tired of the pair of sneakers that you love today...), and that the next Guide will do some spring cleaning and get rid of the addresses that aren't up to par... Yes, we can agree on that. Yes, Ptipois is right, there were 3 periods of Le Fooding: an avant-garde period, where we fantasized (correctly) about a gastronomic world that didn't yet exist; then a period of serious housekeeping and consolidation, with the departure of certain contributors (rarely voluntary, to be honest, but that's beside the point)—certain still didn't understand that a new codification of the taste of the times would be inept...; and then frankly, between us, very few people are capable of judging with enough talent a working class kebab and a more experimental restaurant, in short to understand the scope of each establishment for what it is and not try to dictate what it should be… basically, to be able to write for the Fooding Guide...; and so, it's true, we are now in a more straightforward period, less superficial, with more visible ambitions and more precise plans, especially since the French gastronomic world has liberated itself from the grip of the Michelin Guide, and has opened its arms to us.

                          But who could blame us for wanting to pursue this beautiful adventure honestly, while becoming more professional? By trying to create a more complete, more practical guide, that's even better suited to our times? Maybe we lost some of the fanzine spirit of our early years, but can those who have also lost something of their youth raise a finger? If out of 1,000 addresses you find two that are questionable, isn't it proof that our mission is rather well fulfilled? To reassure you, I would personally gobble up a Grilled Cheese in the eponymous restaurant right away!

                          Concerning our events, on the other hand, I disagree... If our Palais de Tokyo event has remained memorable, since it was truly a first in France but also internationally in the food industry, I think that you must have missed quite a few Fooding events to think that Le Fooding has lost its soul. The Exquisite corpse in NYC, Pelle al arrabiata in Milan, Les Délicatrucks in Paris were really grand moments of eatertainment for example. So if there were some failures, I'm sorry, but maybe it's just proof that we continue to take risks...

                          To finish (sorry for the disorderly structure of this post), I'd like to add two more things: first, it's not impossible that the English version is a little less elegant in terms of the writing than the French version (after all, a translation is a translation, even when it's a cry from the heart...) and we are trying and will continue to make every effort to perfect it; and second, that on a personal level, I continue to use the Fooding App when I walk around in France, because I haven't found anything better... There exist a few "copies," interesting blogs, followers, and leaders in certain specific areas, but as soon as I take a step back, it honestly seems to me that we are still in the game, and probably the best French observatory to embrace the taste of the times, from the very young address discovered before everyone else... to the worst grilled cheese ;)

                          Alexandre Cammas

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Alexandre_Cammas

                            Alexandre - thank you for the insight it's good to understand. I trust that Le Fooding will continue to evolve and get even better - it's definitely one of resources I use and will continue to use. As a reader of the original " Sniffin' Glue" I appreciate where you are coming from with the fanzine reference.....that really resonates.

                            I like the fact you offer a different perspective to Michelin. Having differing views of French restaurants is very useful and really helps triangulate.

                            So now American dude food has peaked what is the next happening food in Paris....?

                            1. re: PhilD

                              My yardstick for success is how well an entity fulfills its mission. From my perspective, Le Fooding is successful at early discovering and writing up the evolving dining scene. Over time, it will necessarily cover pop trends when they become important players as well as new serious restaurants and young emerging chefs. This is both necessary and expected.

                              Le Fooding provides me with timely news. Some is of limited interest, but the same would be true of any other source. I ignore what doesn't pertain to my life and eagerly glom onto those addresses that sound like our kind of place.

                              1. re: mangeur

                                I am indeed grateful to Le Fooding for being a pioneer of counter-Michelin resto guide.

                              2. re: PhilD

                                Maybe (at long last!) street food à la française?... And I hope too, that we'll see the return of good dishes of the day made by chefs who have finally understood that not everything needs to be a signature dish.

                                1. re: Alexandre_Cammas

                                  As for "good dishes of the day", this is precisely what we already expect in the small, unpretentious restaurants we frequent. Except for house-made bread and butter, plates are seldom repeated, reflecting seasonal and market conditions and, more importantly, the imagination and whims of the chef. (Hey, we got these names from you...)