I don’t care how many books I write, each one is a labor of love, and as the publication date approaches the excitement builds, and there is suddenly so much to do.
As part of all of that, my favorite photographer, Francis Hammond and I took to the streets of Paris to shoot some photos for FRENCH GRILL. We could have taken them in the garden at On Rue Tatin, but since the book is both an urban and a country treatise on French grilling, we set our sights on the city streets.
Before I got going, I went to Avogadri coiffeur and my favorite coiffeur Laurent, who manages to tame my Irish hair. He’s so good – in minutes I was in, then out.
Our first stop was the Jardin de Boucicault behind the Bon Marché. I love to sit and sip an “exprès” there, where on one side you see the sky-high sign for the BON MARCHE; on the other, the brand new sparkling banner of the Hotel Lutetia, which will soon open after three years of renovation. It feels so Paris. But it didn’t work for the photo, so we headed for the Champs Elysées, walking to the van, Francis dragging the barbecue behind him.
We stopped for the light at rue de Bac, right in front of an entrance to the Bon Marche. The sun came out. We looked around and said “Why not?” and within minutes we’d placed the barbecue in the the crosswalk, lit newspapers inside so smoke poured from it, and I grabbed my magret de canard, my apron, my tongs and got to work. Francis crouched in position across the street and as soon as there was a break in traffic, he started shooting. He’d shout directions, I’d raise and lower the lid of the barbecue, hold up the magret, look to the left, look to the right. Cars rolled up to the light and drivers peered at the barbecue, realized it was a shoot, and either rolled forward or back to clear Francis’ vision. They laughed, they pointed, they waved; pedestrians took snaps, motorcyclists asked for a taste, a handsome gentleman with a beret and a baguette walked by and we roped him into the photo.
Next stop was Avenue de la Grande Armée. There we had to act fast – smoke billowing from a grill in the middle of traffic there was sure to attract the CRS (crowd control police), the police, the gendarmes, the head of the French army, de Gaulle himself. But no, no one came (they’re all too busy with angry students and train strike I guess). Instead, we had more friendly drivers – friendly drivers in Paris? Yes! – who gave us room, laughed and waved, tossed out “orders” for steak frites or saucisses. A few disgruntled drivers hoisted their arms in that oh-so-French manner, but we didn’t care because our little photo shoot was making a party!
We got the shot and hustled ourselves to Trocadero. The view is endless with the Eiffel Tower as backdrop, the crowds immense, the police absolutely not in favor of grilling anything at all. We did some silly shots, then made our way to an urban terrace for some real grilling. A few more shots and then it was time for the sun to set. It’s all in a working day….!