California-born Kristin Frederick came to France 10 years ago to learn about gastronomy. Now, with her Camion qui Fume food truck launched in 2011, she has become a pioneer of Parisian street food, serving gourmet burgers featuring real French cheese. “In the past 7 years, I’ve used so many different cheeses, including Fourme d’Ambert, Gruyère, Saint-Nectaire and Comté,” she tells us. Kristin currently runs 2 food trucks and heads up 3 restaurants, including Camion qui Fume, a Chinese street food restaurant named Huabu, and GreenHouse , a nature-centric bistro-style restaurantmodelled on Kristin’s own vision of healthy eating. She also finds time to help larger restaurant chains improve their quality. They’re in good hands.
I was born in Los Angeles. My mother managed a chain of restaurants, and my father was a maître d’hôtel. I remember when I was 4 or 5, my mother used to carry me on her back as she showed customers to their tables. Neither of my parents wanted me to work in this business, they were adamant I should go to university. So I studied marketing, and worked as a sales clerk in a bank. But somehow, I couldn’t get cooking out of my system, so off I went to France, just to learn the basics. I never thought I’d end up being a chef, but I fell in love with French cuisine.
In 2011, food trucks were all the rage in California, and I couldn’t understand why there weren’t any in Paris. It wasn’t easy to start selling hamburgers from the back of a truck, but I felt it could work. The French are relatively easy to please – if it tastes good, they’re happy! It was important, though, to use good, local ingredients – terroir-driven produce. The word terroir doesn’t even exist in English. I’m stunned by how successful it’s all been. I’m still reeling!
This is my dream project, part of my own personal growth. It’s how I eat, and how I see things, ecologically speaking; it’s about eating less meat and more vegetables. We’ve got a kitchen garden right in front of the restaurant, and that sort of thing is completely new to me. I’ve never got my hands dirty in quite that way before! I’m learning every day. We supply the restaurant, and any surplus we give to the neighbourhood.
When I was growing up in the US, cheese wasn’t a big thing. My mother worked in an Italian restaurant, and the first cheese I ever came across was Parmesan. I also remember Cheddar, and something we called Munster, but it was nothing like the real thing. I had such fun discovering all the cheeses when I came to France, and now I’ve got lots of favourites. But I still like the cow’s milk ones best.
I love cheese, I could eat it all day: in the mornings because I like a savoury breakfast, at lunchtime because I’m happy with a simple grilled cheese, and in the evenings when I eat a piece after dinner. At Greenhouse, we often include cheese-based recipes. Last spring, we made an asparagus tempura with Comté, and it was superb. When Sweet Cheese contacted me about creating a cheese-based dessert, I was a bit daunted because I’m not really a pastry-chef. But of course, I thought of cheesecake, creating a recipe that was outside the box. I chose Brillat- Savarin, which I love. It’s so creamy, and so much better than the American cream cheese normally used. It’s not too strong and not too mild, and the flavour is far more elegant.
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