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Fr

Julia Chican Vernin

“Customers don’t come because they’re ecologically aware, but because they want to treat themselves without breaking the bank”.

Article published in Le Monde. By Camille Labro.

At the helm of two vegetarian restaurants, Maslow and Fellows, in Paris, Julia Chican Vernin defends a cuisine that is as gourmet as it is low-carbon, by reducing packaging and sourcing from producers who regenerate the soil.

“When I was 5, I wanted to be a cook. Food has always been my hobby. I thought all children were the same, but I gradually realized that I had a particular obsession with it. By the age of 8, I was preparing breakfast for my parents, by 10 I was devouring recipe books, and by 15 I had become my mother’s assistant, who cooked very well and often invited friends over at weekends.

I used to devote my Saturday evenings to it instead of going out with my mates. My mother used to put a lot of pressure on herself when she was entertaining, as if we were in a gourmet restaurant! I’d welcome the guests, help set the plates and serve them. At the end of the dinner, once the guests had left, we’d debrief what had gone well, what we’d liked and what we needed to improve. I’d go to bed exhausted and satisfied; I’d earned my day, I’d made people happy. It’s a feeling I’ve always loved.

I went to business school and as soon as I graduated I turned to my favorite sector. In 2005, I started working for Flam’s, a chain of Alsatian restaurants offering all-you-can-eat tartes flambées, or flammekueches. I learned a lot about the business side of things, developing new concepts, take-away pastas and franchises abroad. With this team, I learned how to be efficient and square. A restaurant is a business, which is something they don’t necessarily teach us in the CAP cuisine!

Like paying taxes

I spent eight years at Flam’s, before trying to develop my tourist gastronomy app – which flopped. I then joined the FoodChéri start-up, which was a project at the time. The idea was to deliver good food, cooked with committed values… It was exciting, until we were bought out by Sodexo. I decided to go into the restaurant business and set up my own restaurant, Maslow. My mission was to show that it was possible to do this business in a more sustainable, eco-responsible way, while attracting plenty of customers and making a profit.

That’s how we can really make an impact! We took the specifications of a restaurant, and asked ourselves, at every line, “How can we do better?” to drastically reduce our carbon footprint. The menu is 100% vegetarian, which is our primary working parameter, we’ve reduced packaging and energy expenditure, we buy from producers who regenerate the soil, and we make our own liqueurs and soft drinks.

For me, reducing our carbon footprint is like paying our taxes: it’s the basis of our business. We don’t communicate about it. Customers don’t come because they’re ecologically aware, but because they want to treat themselves without breaking the bank: they share large katsu (breaded) mushrooms, kohlrabi carpaccios with cashew praline, romesco gnocchi or ultra-gourmet fennel salads. They’re having fun, they’re enjoying themselves, they’re not afraid anymore. Some will never even know they’ve eaten veg.

Maslow, 14, quai de la Mégisserie, Paris 1er.
Fellows, 84, rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis, Paris 10e.