My French London: the guide for Francophile immersion – Bonjour French Food
Accro to fromage, du pain and saucisson? As Francophiles and French expats living in London, we always crave la bonne bouffe française. Many of us have lived in France or visit regularly and find that our stock of French produce runs dry very quickly…
With a growing French community in London, French produce is becoming increasingly available, with French foodies putting a Gallic stamp on the capital’s gastronomic scene. But if you don’t always have time to visit your favourite French vendors in London, why not have your French food fix come to you?
Bonjour French Food ensures that French food lovers outside of France enjoy French gourmet and terroir products by delivering them right to your door. Founders Véronique and Julien are passionate about French produce and travel across the Hexagone to get the most authentic selections.
We spoke to Véronique Poulou to find out some more about the concept satisfying French foodies’ hunger pangs across the world. As she explains, Bonjour French Food aims to change the international perception of French food as exclusively haute cuisine by bringing it back to its authentic and modest roots.
Tell us the story behind Bonjour French Food. What inspired you to set up a business delivering French food to Francophiles around the world?
I had been working in marketing in a huge company for almost nine years when I decided to give a major twist to my life. I wanted to work at a smaller scale to find more meaning in my daily life—a good reason to wake up for. I’ve always been keen on gastronomy and really close to my Southern roots. Artisan French food was an obvious choice for me.
Julien (my business partner) and I had the same vision. First of all, we love French food. But we also think that outside France, the image of French food is a bit biased. It is associated with high gastronomy and sophistication, not really accessible – I’d even say posh. Of course, this is part of French culture and we have amazing chefs that deserve a worldwide attention.
But anyone who’s been to France knows this is not the way we live. French food is also about simplicity. We have an amazing rural culture. We want to promote this culture of artisan food all over the world because it’s awesome, accessible and everybody should experience a nice aperitif from time to time!
What is a typical day like at Bonjour French Food?
Running! Running! Tasting! And running again. The team is so small! There are only three of us. Julien handles everything that is web-related. Claudia deals with the editorial writing and handling customer service. I work on the choice of products, relationship with the artisans and business development.
Do you get many English customers? What do you find them ordering the most?
Most of our customers are British, even if French expats are well-represented. They all have an emotional link with France; either they fell in love with our food during their holidays or they’re learning French. We also have British-French couples who share their parcels!
They are keen on our surprise offer. They love to discover new things!
What do French people order the most and why do you think they feel the need to order? Is it sentimentality? Or do they miss French food and can’t get it in the UK?
When we select the products, we always try to imagine what we would choose if we were mums sending the parcel to their kids. I think this explains the emotional bond our customers experience with us.
What French people order the most is our ‘Charcuterie hamper’. Once you know that, you know it all! You can find charcuterie in London, particularly saucisson. But the variety and quality of pâtés and terrines available in shops does not reflect at all the amazing range of products you can find in France.
We also have French customers in France who use our selections to discover new small producers. French people are so serious about food.
Can you tell us a bit more about how you source your products? How are they transported to London?
The sourcing is my favourite part of the job. I come from the Basque country in South West of France so my first move was to start with the artisans I knew there. I also visit lots of shops, fairs, street markets everywhere in France. I come back to Paris with the products and we organise tastings. Life is good on us!
We chat to artisans to understand their values to decide whether we want to use their products. Most of the time we deal with family businesses.
Once the selection is done, we start editing our monthly magazine, creating recipes and finding out new French restaurants or shops to recommend. Everything is packaged in Paris in a disabled workers workshop close to our office. We dispatch all over the world with courier services.
If you were living across the Channel, what French food would you miss the most and why?
I always ask this very same question to the expats I meet! They always answer cheese first, then saucisson.
I love English cheese so much; I would never miss French cheese if I lived in England. I think I would miss anything that is duck related, confit, rillettes, gésiers, pâté, terrine, magret. Food is part of my daily routine so I would miss French eating habits, particularly taking the time to sit down and eat at lunchtime, which tends to be a rushed affair in Anglophone countries.
More and more French people are moving to London. Why do you think this is happening?
This must be because, “Paris est trop petit pour ceux qui s’aiment comme nous d’un si grand amour.” (Paris is too small for those whose love is as big as ours). This is a line in an old French film Les enfants du Paradis. You should try it as a pick-up line!
Who says you have to live in France to french-ify your life? If you can’t wait until your next trip to France for your French food fix, have your tastebuds immediately transported across the Channel with a hamper from Bonjour French food.
Where do you get your fresh, French produce from? Share your tips in the comments below, or via Twitter with @MyFrenchLondon!
All images © Bonjour French Food.