Pancakes in Paris
Author: Craig Carlson
Genre: Nonfiction/Biography/Autobiography/Memoir/Food and Drink
MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK
Intrigued by Pancakes in Paris, a book highlighted at BEA 16, I was thrilled to find it available through Netgalley. Why resist such a title? And it tastes as good as it looks!
This is basically the memoir of Craig Carlson, and what events in his life led him to become the owner of the Paris restaurant chain, “Breakfast in Paris.”
Former Hollywood screenwriter, Craig grew up in a poor and unstable family, where he learned very early to fence for himself.
He soon developed a love for the French language and managed to spend time in France (Paris, Rouen, Dijon) during his studies. Though he totally fell in love with France, he realized there was one thing he missed: “a good ol’ American breakfast“, so he knew he had to open an American diner in Paris.
With all its ancient buildings, Paris had a wonderful way of reminding you how quickly life goes by, how we’re all just passing through— while at the same time, it forces you to slow down and enjoy every precious moment while you can.
Not a business man, he had to learn everything from scratch.
The book presents in detail all the hurdles he had to go through: about the name of the restaurant, its location, how to find money and investors, how to set up an LLC in France, how to get a loan from French banks, and how to deal with French lawyers. If you think this is tough in the US, read this book!!
Everything was super complicated and slow moving, but thanks to perseverance, and help from colleagues and friends, his dream successfully came true. Craig has currently 3 restaurants in Paris. In the process, he also found love.
This was a real eye opener about the complexity, craziness, and inconsistency of work laws in France (see for instance chapter 14, greatly titled “French labor pains). Being French, I knew some of it, but just a tiny portion of it!
And as for French employees… Yes, I know from experience how slow they can be and unreliable, but I didn’t know how easy it could be for them to tweak laws to their advantage. Craig gives the unbelievable example of this guy who manged to use all the loopholes in laws to get as many paid weeks off as possible (and there were a lot!), without the employer having much recourse possible.
Chapter 19 on all the different kinds of inspectors (work, health, sidewalk, liquor, music and language!) is hilarious, well, as long as you are just a reader and not the one having to receive them in your restaurant!
The author does a great job at highlighting cultural differences between our two countries, in food and other areas.
We couldn’t help but notice how everyone in America seemed to scurry about, trying to please you. On the contrary, service workers in Paris often treat customers as nuisances who get in the way of their gab sessions.
And just try requesting something—anything— from a Parisian. Before you’ve had a chance to get the words out of your mouth, you’re given the ol’ French motto: “C’est pas possible!”
The book is also an interesting history piece, as Craig’s drama enfolds on the background of sometimes tough relationships between the US and France, especially during the Iraq War.
VERDICT: Eye-opening memoir of an American living his dream to open a restaurant in Paris. Meet the real France.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
Paris was practically perfect…
Craig Carlson was the last person anyone would expect to open an American diner in Paris. He came from humble beginnings in a working-class town in Connecticut, had never worked in a restaurant, and didn’t know anything about starting a brand-new business. But from his first visit to Paris, Craig knew he had found the city of his dreams, although one thing was still missing-the good ol’ American breakfast he loved so much.
Pancakes in Paris is the story of Craig tackling the impossible-from raising the money to fund his dream to tracking down international suppliers for “exotic” American ingredients… and even finding love along the way. His diner, Breakfast In America, is now a renowned tourist destination, and the story of how it came to be is just as delicious and satisfying as the classic breakfast that tops its menu.