Clay Williams is a Brooklyn-based photographer with a serious thing for street food. He recently traveled to Paris and shot a series for Food Republic on the food truck scene, which only recently started taking off in the City Of Light a couple years ago. For his first report, he talks to one of the city's pioneering cartmen. And as we find out, like many trucks in the States, the chef-owner has his eyes on opening a brick-and-mortar location.
Cantine California is the brainchild of Jordan Feilders, a San Francisco native who grew up in Paris and decided to bring the flavors of Abbott Kinney and the Embarcadero to the streets of Montparnasse. The truck, one of the first of its kind to hit the streets of Paris, serves burgers, tacos and even cupcakes to a Parisian audience hungry for flavors from the U.S.
I visited Cantine California recently during the busy Wednesday lunch rush at Place du Marché Saint Honoré in the 1st Arrondissement. Local laws prohibit vendors from selling food directly from a truck, so Feilder and his crew visit the many markets in Paris and set up a stand in front of the truck where orders are taken, food is delivered and diners huddle around a few standing tables. We spoke with Feilders in between flips of the patty.
What did you do before launching the truck?
I used to work in the corporate world, but have always been a foodie and had the itch to break away and do my own thing.
Why did you think Paris needed this kind of food?
Coming from California, but having grown up in Paris as a kid and being married to a French girl, I'd gotten to understand France's interest in creative ideas coming out of the U.S. And beyond that, French people like good produce and good taste. I hope to bring that to them through what I think is our authentic take on Californian street food.
What's a crazy thing that's happened while on the streets?
In our first weeks of operation we counted 15 policemen stopping us mid-service demanding our business and permitting papers. They eventually went away and now some of them come by and eat at the truck.
What's the challenge of serving your food from a truck in Paris? And did you have to adapt traditional recipes to fit your clientele's tastes?
We do things the same way as back home, but use only premier French organic meat, farm-grade cheeses and homemade bread and sauces.
What's your favorite neighborhood for getting a good, excited crowd of customers?
Our two street markets on Raspail and Saint Honoré. We love our clients in both locations. From hip workers of the local Marc Jacobs or Balenciaga stores to the single moms stopping by with their kid for a quick lunch, or the business suits looking for a change in their daily routines. We're happy to oblige for all.
If you could bring another cuisine to Paris in a truck or cart, what would it be?
I'd like to stick to different streams of Californian cuisines, but I feel like within burgers and tacos there are almost endless opportunities. We're proud to be Paris' first and only organic burger and taco truck.
Do you plan to open a brick and mortar location? What's your next project?
We opened a kitchen residency in the South Pigalle Red Light district in July and are opening our own brick and mortar location in March.