all of Paris at his feet

Its restaurants occupy the most beautiful places in the capital. Its trademark: terraces with a view

Up there, so high, at this exquisite hour of the day, the ocher mass of the city assumes zinzoline reflections. The air barely trembles. A soft reverberation settles in the meanderings of the Seine. Sacré-Coeur, the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, Palais Conti… To our eyes, Paris can be read like an open book. Magical. “It’s still a sick notion, isn’t it? Laurent de Gourcuff dare. High forehead, lively gaze, condottiere smile, the young man – despite his thirty-year career, he is only 46 years old – never tires of contemplating this almost surreal landscape from Bonnie. The latest addition to the Paris Society galaxy (51 locations) opens in early September. This belvedere on the edge of the Marais, located on the 16th floor of a former fire station, is decorated by Icelandic-Danish Olafur Eliasson, Leonardo da Vinci’s Viking version of materials and light. Guaranteed wow effect.

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His obsessions? The horizon, the vantage point and the panorama

Great chefs are born, it is said, under the sign of the fork. Laurent de Gourcuff was born under the terrace with a view. His obsessions? The horizon, the angle of view and the panorama. In his personal holy trinity there is the “crazy view”, the “poof view” and the “sick view”. The rest does not interest him much. Because, for the man nicknamed “Mr. Rooftop”, only the view is consistent with success, before the quality of the plate or the vintage of the wines served in his establishments. “Ten years ago I made my list of the most beautiful terraces in Paris. There were less than twenty. Today I am present for almost fifteen, ”he glistens in a mixed voice, a shame for someone who has never had a drop of alcohol in his life.

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Giraffe: seafood at Trocadero.

© Romain Ricard

Giraffe (Trocadéro), Monsieur Bleu (Palais de Tokyo), Perruche (Printemps Haussmann), Mun (Champs-Élysées)… The Paris Society has planted its flag at the top of the most beautiful places in the capital. And we are busy. Emmanuel Macron often goes off the cuff to one of these addresses to crack a little seed. For the past 14 days, Jeff B., a successful American tech entrepreneur, and Brad P., a handsome Hollywood actor, have gone out of their way to feed themselves by listening to “And scratch, scratch on your mandolin , my little baby ! at Gigi’s, avenue Montaigne. And it is on the Giraffe terrace, overlooking the Champ-de-Mars, that Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck came on July 25 to celebrate their honeymoon. Ransom for success, that is nearly impossible to come and eat in one of its fancy canteens, with a six-week to two-month wait.

Perruche: Provençal cuisine on the roof of Printemps, boulevard Haussmann.

Perruche: Provençal cuisine on the roof of Printemps, boulevard Haussmann.

© Romain Ricard

Selected excerpts from comments left online. “I called fifty times to order. No one answers”, “Sublime, but getting a table there is an achievement”. “I must be one of the most hated men in Paris. However, I would like to be able to please everyone”, says Laurent de Gourcuff, who on his mobile phone receives between 50 and 100 messages a day, weekends included, asking him to find a table with a view. The person in question is not the type to push the collar. Furiously likable, unable to address anyone for more than thirty seconds, endowed with an energizing energy, the one who has “Paris at his feet” is above all a hard worker and an excellent storyteller. Connect it to a place and it tells, tells, tells until it is disconnected with great difficulty.

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Laurent de Gourcuff does not drink, does not smoke, and he has turned the party into an empire

However, Paris Society was not built in a day. Well-born – the father, an estate dealer, came from an old Breton nobility; the mother, a stylist, designed cocktail dresses – Laurent de Gourcuff spent his childhood in the Auteuil-Neuilly-Passy ghetto. Retirement with the good fathers, Oratorians of Juilly, former royal academy and elite factory since Cardinal Mazarin, matriculation, business school for family sons, European Business School… But from adolescence, young Laurent only goes out for parties. His sixth sense is that of the party. Neither a hedonist nor a sybarite, he only drinks plain water and has never smoked a cigarette, he just loves to see people having fun. From the age of 15 he organized parties for the golden youth. “When parents were on holiday, we squatted in the flat. I brought back my sound system, my CDs, my drinks and collected admission at the foot of the building,’ he recalls. At 22, he bought Les Planches, rue du Colisée, in the 8th arrondissement, headquarters of the golden youth, his first nightclub.

At the abbey of Vaux-de-Cernay, former property of the Rothschilds, in the Chevreuse valley, an hour from Paris.  It is now a 160-room hotel, under construction until 2023.

At the abbey of Vaux-de-Cernay, former property of the Rothschilds, in the Chevreuse valley, an hour from Paris. It is now a 160-room hotel, under construction until 2023.

© Alvaro Canovas/Paris Match

In fact, for a long time Laurent de Gourcuff went to bed early. In the very early morning. For his first matches, he won them in the world of the night with, over the years, in his wallet, only tongue and bling-bling: Chez Régine, Le Milliardaire, Castel, Raspoutine, Yoyo, Le Madam… After disco balls, it is proud of events with a nice catalog of first class places or guinguettes. But the big change dates back to 2013, when he got the rights to run a restaurant at the Palais de Tokyo. It will be Mr. Blue. Already with the recipe that will make it a success: nice decoration, stylish service, the view “Oh my God!”. On the plate, no gastronomy, but revisited brasserie dishes: sea bream ceviche, grilled squid, Ibaïama pork belly… The bill is not given, but the clientele asks for more. From the first year, the turnover exploded: 9 million euros instead of the 5 planned. The Palais de Tokyo, which gets a percentage of the proceeds, is jubilant. Evil tongues cry out for counsel. Misplaced jealousy.

“I don’t care about angry people,” comments Laurent de Gourcuff. A virtuous circle was actually set in motion. The Parisian scene saw that we had a real ability to make a very beautiful place a must. And an ATM. Later, the Palais de Chaillot called Noctis, which became Paris Society, for its restaurants: Girafe and Suite Girafe. For its building on the Champs-Élysées, which housed the Virgin Megastore, Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund thinks in the Breton of the beautiful districts. “We invested 5 million euros and three years of work to redo everything,” says the boss. From the old Roman saying “In varietate concordia” he made his credo. “Here at home there are not too many old people, not too many young people, not too many men, not too many women. It is the variety that makes the success. The same people eat lunch while talking business at dinner time and return as a family to eat in homemade gazebos.

It takes guts and endurance to follow him from 8pm to midnight on his rounds of meals, huddled in his Smart. He delivers the sentences in a staccato of words, swallows the dishes in three mouthfuls, has to greet half a dozen tables everywhere. Up at 7 a.m. and in bed at 1 a.m., Monday through Thursday, Laurent de Gourcuff retires at the weekend with his wife, Constance, and his three young children in his museum retreat in Pacy-sur-Eure. There, this incarnate bargain hunter has an incredible collection of giant Playmobil and pinball machines, and even a bowling alley filled with two XXL Oscars: the ones on the edge of the carpet at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood during the Oscars.

Also read. Laurent de Gourcuff: the smart collector of trendy places

In 2018, the Accor group took over a 31% stake in its capital. This opens up a financial horizon and endless possibilities. Since then, the Paris Society has added a few mythical places to its selection: the former two-star Apicius, a private mansion a stone’s throw from the Champs-Élysées; Le Laurent, the canteen for “politicians”, in the 8th arrondissement. Not to mention the Russian House, a neo-Gothic madness spanning five levels on avenue Poincaré. While waiting for Le Mima, on the roof of the Arab World Institute. And places in the provinces like the Gigi beach house in Ramatuelle or the Refuge de Solaise hotel restaurant, located 2,500 meters high in Val-d’Isère.

Also read. Laurent de Gourcuff: the art of receiving

“The Covid crisis has not affected us too much. Our owners are institutions or foundations. They have “forgotten” the rent while they wait for a better tomorrow. “From the first day of reopening, we were full,” says “Mr. Rooftop”. The staff, who receive half their salary in tips – a bonus that can reach 2,500 euros a month – have held their own. In 2021, Paris Society achieved 225 million euros in revenue against 150 million in 2019. The profit ?Top secret.
Next step, Phantom, Accor Arena’s future second room, where after a concert fans can extend the party with a DJ, “blind test” around the idol of the day and from time to time participate in a surprise set by the artist. So in 2023 there will be a 160-room hotel in a 12th-century Cistercian monastery in Vaux-de-Cernay, an hour from Paris: 90 hectares on the edge of the Rambouillet forest, a lake, 14,000 square meters, lawn sometimes plain and simple, sometimes contrasting and decorated with flowers. Another hotel will follow in Belle-Île-en-Mer, in a former Fort Vauban, then the International. The Paris Society has just opened an office in Dubai. The planet has 1,500 skyscrapers over 200 meters. So many “views of the mentally ill” where Laurent de Gourcuff intends to install his stylish headlands with such a French touch.

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