At number 1 rue Cherubini, in the Stock Exchange district (Paris II), there is a shop painted black, the nature of which is, at first sight, difficult to identify, especially since there is no no window. At the back of the small shop, we just see a counter. If you don’t pay much attention to it, you can imagine that this is the entrance to a private club, something a bit exclusive, known only to revelers. If only under the name displayed above the door, Momzi, is the inscription “elevated donuts”. Literally, “raised donuts”, or enhanced.
We enter the premises: from the ceiling, ears of wheat are suspended upside down and, on the sides, six displays spaced one or two meters apart are each surmounted by a different donut. There’s no denying it: it’s very pretty, all those flower petals placed with tongs on the (handmade) pastel glazes of the donuts, and those donut decorations worthy of the most beautiful pastries. The flavors are perfectly in keeping with the codes of the moment: sesame, yuzu, lavender, pumpkin… The boxes in which the sweets are packaged give them a “jewelry” touch. It is clear that, from the decoration of the shop (the place is Instagrammable as possible) to the staging of the purchase, everything is done here so that the spectacle, or the “experience”, as it is now appropriate to say, starts from the landing.
Is it worth the 7 to 8 euros each? It depends on what everyone is looking for when buying a pastry – we think not. It’s quite good, although not very generous (even if it means eating an American donut, you might as well go to Boneshaker Donuts, in the Sentier too, where you know why you’re spending your 5 euros and where you assume the impending diabetes crisis) . Above all, the price range is close to that of individual pastries in renowned stalls – for comparison, we pay 7.50 euros for the Saint-Honoré by Philippe Conticini or 6.50 euros for the tarte tatin by Nina Métayer – and there is undeniably work, especially decoration, we are still dealing with fried dough (in coconut oil, of course). Here, we slap above all to feed your Instagram account with stories and licked posts.
Ultra-profitability of the burger
Let’s not, however, blame Momzi, who is just one of the latest examples of the “elevated food” phenomenon. This concept developed by the United States consists of starting from a traditional or popular dish (especially street food) and offering a more refined version. In principle, why not. The hamburger is a rather positive example of this: when, in the 2010s, they massively landed in French brasseries, whereas previously they were mainly bought in fast-food chains, it was generally with steaks a slightly thicker than their counterparts at Quick or McDonald’s, more expensive cheeses (Saint-Nectaire, goat’s cheese, etc.), and sometimes “Frenchified” sauces (blue cheese, foie gras, etc.). And, today, nobody finds much to complain about: the price difference makes sense (quality and quantity of products, among other things, even if the burger remains ultra-profitable for the restaurateur) and the price remains reasonable general rule.
The problem is that by dint of seeing the prices of popular foods soar, the greedy grumble. One thinks in particular of the sometimes insane prices of simple margherita pizzas, originally a cheap Neapolitan dish, whose Parisian prices have exploded. An example: the call price for margheritas from the pizzeria Popolare, of the Big Mamma group, initially marketed at 5 euros, rose to 9 euros in 2018, an 80% increase, as noted Le Figaro. At the beginning of October, the infotainment site Buzzfeed in turn listed examples of dishes whose prices have greatly increased across the Atlantic, gastronomic appropriation obliges. Tacos that used to sell for around $1.50 and are now often priced up to $11, arancinis have gone from $2 each to sometimes $20 for three, hot dogs that you pay up to $10 each (here, France is not to be outdone, as evidenced by the hot dog stalls sold from 7.50 to 9.90 euros which abound in the capital)…
The old timers get annoyed
Mid-October, Emma Shew, in the university newspaper The Appalachian (North Carolina), opined in an editorial titled “The problem with elevated Southern food” that restaurants that served “upgraded” traditional southern foods – at absurd prices (more than 27 dollars for a tomato and cheese pie, for example) – distort this cuisine and monopolize “the housekeeping, greasy, unrefined, sloppy style of Appalachian cooking and transform(ing) it into something palatable to tourists […]. Why are these restaurants ashamed of what is quintessential Appalachian food? The answer couldn’t be simpler. There is an ingrained belief, outside of the region, that Appalachian people are lazy, dirty, rude, and unrefined. […] By not serving an authentically Appalachian menu, they are helping to spread these misconceptions about the region.”
This analysis recalls the emergence in France of so-called “luxury” kebabs, starting in 2013, the price of the sandwich alone can approach 10 euros, or a little less than double the price of the lambda kebab. The thing annoyed the old-timers of the consumption of “Greeks”, who saw in it a gentrification of a popular snack with traditionally generous portions. It doesn’t matter whether milk-fed veal is used in “luxury” kebabs or whether it is accessorized with feta or Berlin-style vegetable pickles: the idea of having to improve a dish that has hitherto been suitable very well to the working classes is sometimes experienced as a form of class contempt. Example: in 2015, the magazine QGdiscussing two raised kebab recipes, wrote: “QG looks back at two gastronomic recipes imagined by Thierry Marx and Frédéric Peneau. Proof that it is not reserved for Barbès. Proof, above all, that the imaginations linked to popular dishes are much more political than it seems, and that claiming to improve them is not entirely neutral.