Born and raised in the Bordeaux region, the Arnaud sisters were both embracing a successful career in media before coming back to Bordeaux a couple of years ago.
“I had a career in media in Paris with a focus on culture, partnerships and copywriting. I worked for big media groups such as Canal+, Le Parisien Aujourd’hui en France, France Ô and France 5,” Fanny says. “I had an opportunity to come back to Bordeaux in October 2014 and even though things were alright in Paris, I was happy to be back in Bordeaux.”
“I originally went to Paris for an internship and stayed for five years,” Lucile says. “I worked at Omnivore, which organizes food festivals and publishes a biannual review, I freelanced for different street-food festivals, pop-up restaurants and even worked as a chef agent. I was also happy with my life in Paris, but I missed the nature of the Bordeaux region and we found ourselves at a time where my sister and I felt the need to build something together.”
At first, they had to adjust to the ecosystem in Bordeaux that was utterly different compared to what they were used to in Paris.
“I was used to working for big groups but I quickly realized that the opportunities were not the same in Bordeaux,” Fanny says. “Here, you have to create your own path.”
“We were both fascinated by the food culture in Paris and when we moved back to Bordeaux, we both realized that nothing or very little had been done and that we had everything to build,” Fanny says.
“In Paris, communication with a real focus on food did exist but in Bordeaux, it was non-existent,” Lucile says. “In Bordeaux, the cultural scene exists thanks to the numerous associations and because it is smaller and the cultural actors are clearly identified. I have always been crazy about food and that passion became so big that I even wrote my master’s thesis on food.”
From that point on, they had a long and intense period of reflexion during which they gather all their thoughts around a general idea: bringing the chefs, winemakers, craftsmen and all the other actors of the food industry in Bordeaux together in an environment where they could interact with each other.
“We had so many different formats to make it work. Despite our excitement, we were stuck in that reflexion phase for a while until one day, my sister told me: we have to do it now and stop talking about how cool it would be if we were doing it and actually do it”.
This is how the Bordeaux Food Club was born, an association that gathers passionate chefs, winemakers, journalists or anyone from the food industry and in which Fanny and Lucile organize events coupled around food and art open to the public.
“To become a member, you need to be part of the food industry – whether it is as a chef or a winemaker – and be nice,” Fanny says. “It may sound silly, but it’s super important to us as our goal is to create a great synergy in an environment in which people are happy to get together in an informal setting. We don’t want to be seen as sanctimonious but we want to connect with people who are passionate about food, who are conscious and share similar values such as environment, local production etc.”
When they started the Bordeaux Food Club and thought about theme-based dinners, they had a main focus on the “Dîner Planqué,” an event in which a chef cooks in an original and artistic decor in Bordeaux kept secret until the day of the event. But as they started looking for these places, they realized that most of them were owned or under the supervision of the mayor’s office, which was not too excited about their project.
“That setback didn’t discourage us and soon, we had an opportunity to create the culinary identity for the Festival Vie Sauvage, a well-known music festival of the region,” Lucile says. “We had carte blanche and we selected three chefs offering three different culinary ambiances and it was very well received by the public.”
During that festival, Vivien Durand, chef at Le Prince Noir, one of the best restaurants in Bordeaux, cooked a fantastic banquet for over 50 people. They also took part in the Été Métropolitain (metropolitan summer) and teamed up with a gardener and organized walks in little-known green spaces and with a fantastic botanist named Julien Beauquel.
“He led the visits of those green spaces, teaching people about the history of the plants and which plants were edible or not,” Lucile says. “At the end of the visit, a chef was waiting for the group in the middle of the space we were in and cooked a meal integrating the plants collected by the participants. It was a wonderful memory.”
One of the particularities of the Bordeaux Food Club’s events is that in addition to the culinary experience, there is a willingness to give a real “visual experience” to the participants.
“We think that food is an art itself and we wanted to push that experience even further,” Fanny says. “We teamed up with artists who created an artistic performance while people were dining, which we thought would be unique for our guests.”
Organizing such events requires a number of logistics. In addition to finding unique venues to differentiate themselves from normal restaurants, they also need to make sure that the chefs who cook in a different environment that they are used feel comfortable. And while they are the only two people working full-time on the Bordeaux Food Club, they can count on the support and help of their friends and volunteers when they are organizing bigger events.
“We are lucky to have friends and volunteers helping us, especially between June and October, which is our busiest time of the year,” Fanny says. “A year after the launch of the Bordeaux Food Club, we have received positive feedback from the public and more and more companies and organizations are reaching out to have us organize events for them. In addition to that, we are pursuing our own projects.”
Speaking of projects, Fanny and Lucile will organize the Bordeaux Food Club’s first “Dîners Surréalistes,” which are inspired by the lavish and eccentric dinners that Salvator Dalí used to organize for his muse and wife Gala.
“We were leafing through an art book and we thought that it would be amusing to recreate this very special atmosphere,” Fanny says.
“On March 28th and 29th, we will be hosting two dinners cooked by Victor Ostronzec, chef at Soléna restaurant, with a capacity of 40 people each night,” Lucile adds. “On April 16th, we will be hosting our second “Dîner Planqué.” We teamed up with the crew of Symbiose bar and the artist that will be creating art during the dinner is Enora Lalet, a plastic artist and a Bordeaux native specialized in food whose incredible work is very popular abroad where she has several residencies.”
While others would be thinking about developing this successful concept in other cities, the two sisters are more focused on creating a community and are not too concerned with expanding yet.
“At the moment, we are not planning on turning the Bordeaux Food Club into a franchise, we still have so many chefs and extraordinary venues to discover in the region,” Fanny says. “Of course, we are passionate about what we do, but at the moment, we finance all of our events ourselves so we hope that our work and our increasing partnerships with different actors will bring us stable revenue.”
Looking back on this journey together, they both agree that starting the Bordeaux Food Club was definitely the right decision to make.
“Despite the moments of doubt and the uncertainty that comes with starting a new project, we don’t see ourselves doing anything else,” Lucile says. “It’s a great feeling to wake up in the morning and do something you love.”
Don’t forget to look out for the Bordeaux’s Food Club’s events if you are in Bordeaux this spring and summer!