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Souvenirs Souvenirs Ep. 5 - Christine Doublet
Souvenirs Souvenirs Ep. 5 - Christine Doublet
29 October 2023
"Panthelis in Marathi t-shirts: two t-shirts purchased twenty years apart at one of my favorite restaurants in Greece, Panthelis, on the island of Marathi off the coast of Patmos where my family and I go almost every summer"

For this fifth episode of "Souvenirs, Souvenirs," a behind-the-scenes personality presents their shining outfits from their favorite hospitable places around the world. Christine Doublet, the Franco-American Deputy Director of Le Fooding, unveils the awards for her best merchandise pieces!

Can you tell us about your job?

My name is Christine Doublet, and I am the Deputy Director of Le Fooding, a restaurant guide and event agency that has been in existence for twenty-three years now. I handle all the editorial and event-related aspects, oversee all our print and digital publications, and coordinate all the events we produce in France and Belgium. I'm not alone; we are a team of twenty-five people.

"My very small match from: Le Maquis, Le Café des Délices, Hotel Grand Amour, Le Cadoret and La Fontaine de Mars in Paris, Emilia in Mexico City, Grandfathers in Tokyo, Pancho's and Gigi's in Los Angeles and Maracuja in New York City"

How long have you been with them?
I've been with Le Fooding for nine years now. I started as an intern and have been in this position for two years.

Has the world of cuisine and restaurants always been your passion?
Yes, we love to eat a lot in my family; both my parents cook a lot. I also worked for a cooking school every summer during my high school years. And I worked as a translator for food and wine magazines during my studies. Finally, I worked for a year and a half for Chef Daniel Boulud in New York, especially in the editorial department.

Are you of American origin?
I am Franco-American, born in Los Angeles. I lived in the United States for fifteen years before coming to Paris in my sophomore year of high school.

You grew up in American culture where merch is ubiquitous. How is it different in the United States?
In the United States, practically everyone wears merch, especially from schools. In all the photos of me since I was little, you can see me wearing a Stanford or Berkeley sweatshirt, which were my parents' alma maters. Then, after finishing my studies, I started representing my favorite restaurants more, which is the world I'm in now.

In the United States, is it almost a standard for a hospitality venue to develop merchandise products?
Yes, whether they sell it or not, they all have merchandise. I come from California, where In-N-Out is very strong in this regard. It's the best burger chain in the United States, and they create merch collections that they refresh every season.

Where does this culture of branding places come from? Is it purely for advertising, or is it deeper than that?
It's advertising, but it's also related to the fact that the United States is a vast country. France is roughly equivalent to an American state, but we share a common language, and many people leave their home states for education, so it's a way to assert their original region.

The American college sweatshirt is a bit like our department number on license plates in France...
Yes, it's somewhat similar.

In France, merch culture, especially for hospitality venues, is much rarer?
Yes, it's a relatively recent development in France. Restaurants only started showing interest in it recently. They are now realizing that it's a real phenomenon. It's also thanks to you a bit; I remember events you organized five or six years ago. You were already doing merch for your pop-ups, but it was very rare back then. No one else was doing it yet. The same goes for the Sagi Taverna restaurant in Perpignan; they have been working with a design agency for a long time to develop merch, even extending it to Vermouth bottles. These are rare examples.

How do you explain that it has developed so much among French restaurateurs?
It's a combination of factors. It's both the food phenomenon that is extremely trendy. Nowadays, during fashion weeks, all fashion shows are followed by dinners. This wasn't the case before; it has become a central part. People have a greater desire to showcase where they've dined.

The choice of a restaurant for a brand, for an event, is almost part of the artistic direction.
It says a lot about the brand, yes. People really pay close attention to it.

Do you feel that some restaurants have a stronger "brand" identity than certain fashion brands?
Yes, I think in the past, the significant brands in this industry were places like Le Café de Flore or the grand brasseries: Lipp, Au Pied de Cochon, La Coupole. All these places that are mentioned in all the books from the early twentieth century. Now, it's more the new, so-called "cool" restaurants that are becoming brands. I'm thinking especially of Bistrot Paul Bert, Bistrot des Tournelles, or Verre Volé. These are the new places frequented by American tourists.

What is your relationship with merchandise? What kind of place makes you want to buy merch?
A beautiful design alone is not enough. I don't buy merch just to show that I've eaten there; I only buy merch if I really liked the restaurant. But I also have to find it visually appealing.
My most recent purchase came from an amazing restaurant in Ghent, Belgium, called Alberte. Their cap is really cool and matches the blue color of the facade. Everything makes sense with them. Sometimes I'm given t-shirts as well, but I'll never wear merch from a place I've never been to.

As someone representing a media and guide covering the food scene, do you ever have to think about which restaurant t-shirt to wear or not wear based on your outings?
I have a huge tote bag from Doyenné, which I recently took with me on a trip to Japan. But due to my role, I can't see myself wearing it in Paris, even though we recently awarded them a Fooding prize. I feel like it might come across as snobby. Sometimes, when I visit a restaurant for the guide, I have to remain incognito. Wearing a restaurant t-shirt could draw attention. It happened to me recently, and I felt uncomfortable. I have my personal favorites, but I have to maintain impartiality. So, in Paris, I pay attention to what I wear.

You want to avoid political issues!
Yes, exactly.

In your opinion, what has been the most successful merch in recent years?
Good merch should be simple and visually impactful. I think of Courage Bagels in Los Angeles. The colors, the font used on their cap or sweater, I think it pops. They're always sold out. I also love Sagi Taverna's merch.

Do you like these positive "tribal" interactions that merch generates? Two people talking to each other on the street because of a cap, for example.
It's cool, but I'm a bit shy, so I don't talk to people much. It happened to me recently with a Sweet Pickle Books t-shirt from New York. I saw a girl wearing the same t-shirt, and we ended up taking a photo together.

In summary, merch isn't for the shy!
I'm not necessarily looking to strike up a conversation with my outfit, indeed.

You recently released a lot of products with Le Fooding branding. Tell us about it.
For the past three years, we've been doing more of that, yes, with the artistic directors of our guide, the Choque Le Goff studio. With them, we naturally started doing merch. There's a series of t-shirts that feature articles from the guide. For example, you can read a complete article from our latest guide on my back. The same year, we held our awards ceremony at Stade Bauer in Saint-Ouen, in collaboration with Red Star. We made football scarves that year. We also made hot sauces. Everyone in the Fooding office wears merch, especially our own products.

If you had the opportunity to create your dream merch product, can you describe it to us?
I've already done it! Our editor-in-chief was getting married. Both of them were football fans, so I had a scarf made in collaboration with Union Saint-Gilloise club in Brussels, which also sponsors Fooding. It was his dream, and we made it happen. We distributed them at midnight at the wedding with smoke bombs.

If you had to pick an item from the GiftShop website, what would it be?
On the practical side, I need Zabar's bagel guillotine. For a vintage product, I'd go for the Ritz empty pocket plate. And finally, for a collaboration product with GiftShop, I'd choose the Verre Volé jacket with Service Works, in green because it's really beautiful.

Your last meal?
Le Cheval d'Or last Saturday, it was so good.

And the next one?
Tomorrow at noon, I'm going to Datil with Chef Manon Fleury, and soon I'll be going to 6 Paul Bert with Pauline Sène.

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