Pierre Jancou is long gone, but manager David Benichou (formerly Le Garde Robe in Paris and Ten Bells in NYC) is holding down the fort, and it remains meeting place for both winemakers and off-night chefs. Chef Svante Forstop (formerly Aux Deux Amis) assembles a short roster of small plates each night to accompany Benichou’s selection of natural wines. The prices made more sense before a recent increase, but people seem more than willing to pay (ourselves included). - MZ 2014
Pierre Jancou has relaunched Vivant Table with chef Sota (ex-Troisgros, Robuchon, Stella Maris & Toyo) at the helm and more ambitious menus at 29/39€ at lunch and 55€ at dinner. There’s also a carte blanch menu with 7-8 dishes (no choice). The wine remains all-natural, but the cooking is better than ever. Update: Jancou sold Vivant Table and Vivant Cave in December 2013 to the owners of Racines.
Italian chef Giovanni Passerini opened Rino in March 2010 after working with Petter Nilsson at La Gazzetta at the height of that restaurant’s popularity. Passerini’s handmade pastas and updated “cucina povera” made Rino a darling of the French food media circuit (especially Omnivore) and a favorite of many food industry folks on their nights off. We don’t have any solid details yet about who has purchased Rino, who will be cooking, or how much of the staff is staying (sommelier Francesca Tradard left last month). We do know that Passerini plans to return with a “contemporary trattoria” for Paris in the not-too-distant future.
The sale of Vivant should be no surprise to anyone who has been following the resto-hopping Jancou since his days at La Cremerie. Jancou, who has a gift for connecting great spaces, products and talent, opened Vivant in the spring of 2011 with a long list of Italian natural wines, and simple comfort food like risotto and zampone (breaded pigs’ feet). He then relaunched in the fall of 2012 showcasing a new chef with fine dining credentials (Sota) and higher prices. It was around two and a half years between the time that Jancou opened and sold Vivant to the same investors who purchased his previous restaurant Racines.
The first iteration of Vivant’s menu with à la carte pricing
The rise and sale of his equally hyped Racines followed a similar trajectory, opening in the summer of 2008 with a wine focus and simple pastas before later installing Sven Chartier (who went on to chef at Saturne), raising the prices and selling up – all within two years. For now, it seems that much of Vivant’s staff will remain in place: manager David Benichou, chef Sota in the restaurant, and Thomas Legrand in the wine bar next door.
As for Jancou, we wish him well and look forward to whatever he’ll be opening next. Because we all know that he’ll be back within a year to get us excited about something that he’ll later offload. If he’s taking requests, we’d like for that to be pizza.
Pierre Jancou is many things: a lover of food, an ambassador of natural wine, and (as we learned this week) a former male model. He is also (as we learned from last year’s exchange with F-R Gaudry) a man with a temper.
On October 19, Jancou received an email from the secretary to Jean-Paul Ludot, the Directeur Général of Marie-Claire, announcing that Vivant had been selected to feature as his favorite restaurant of the month. This was paired with a request for the boss man (and a guest) to eat for free.
Jancou replied that he had never in 24 years invited a journalist to eat for free and that he found such a request to be “louche et frauduleuse.” Ludot himself responded that this was a “very classic approach to test restaurant menus and write articles.” He then cited the number of Marie-Claire readers and told Jancou that he would remove Vivant from their selection. “You are the only one to react this way… and as aggressively,” he continued in a follow-up reply. He went on to say that Jancou was “stingy.”
How do I know all this? Because Jancou forwarded the email chain to me (and many others) on October 21. I giggled and emailed him my reply, but another recipient, Bruno Verjus, published the entire correspondence on his blog Food Intelligence. That gave rise to stories in Le Monde, Le Nouvel Observateur, Le Figaro, L’Express and other major media outlets.
In response, Marie-Claire has issued an official apology for Ludot’s “personal error.” Ludot himself has apologized for his “clumsiness” and assured us that his “attitude has been shifted.”
The greater shifts, however, are in the balance of power between old and new media, and between restaurants and journalists. Ludot’s boast to Jancou that “others have understood that it was an opportunity to put forward their establishment in a major magazine… with 500,000 readers” reveals an (unsurprising) unawareness of the fact that Jancou doesn’t need him.
Restaurants, if they are any good, have already been written and written about. Journalists have little to offer in the way of “exposure” to restaurants that are already full every night. The days of free meals, for the writer (and their bosses) are surely coming to an end. Maybe even for Pudlo.
The restaurant Vivant, like many others in Paris, will close for several weeks summer. There will be little rest, however, for Pierre Jancou, who plans to open an adjoining wine bar/cave à manger and to revamp the offerings at Vivant.
The current restaurant space will reopen as Vivant Table on August 28 with a new chef and more serious culinary aspirations. Chef Sota, formerly a second at Toyo, will expand beyond the simple product-driven dishes of the past, and prices will rise accordingly (as happened when Jancou installed Sven Chartier at Racines). After the rentrée, you can expect to pay 14-25€ for a starter, 25-40€ for a main and 10€ for a dessert. Fixed price “carte blanche” menus will also be available for 35€ at lunch and 60€ at dinner. Jancou himself will continue to manage the service and the wine at Vivant Table.