Nicolas Ouchenir & Hugo Matha
Maison Pépite at your service
Maison Pépite aims to modernize the codes of French gastronomy while keeping its essential elements intact
Is it possible to put the essence of French gastronomy into a box? Maison Pépite isn’t afraid of the challenge. Co-founded by Sonia Dupuis (founder of the events and culinary communication agency Cook & Com), her son Arnaud and Lucille Jasmin, a specialist in culinary events, Maison Pépite is the perfect meeting of gastronomy, fashion and design. With the help of Hugo Matha and Nicolas Ouchenir, these enthusiasts have developed an one-of-a-kind box designed as a gastronomic experience. For their launch, five renowned chefs have joined the project: Jérôme Banctel, Jérôme Jaegle, Stéphane Jégo, Alan Geaam and Nicolas Paciello. Each of them has created a menu to put in their box. Officiating as artistic directors, Hugo Matha and Nicolas Ouchenir have designed a box embodied by a the Toile de Jouy, a nod to the one-of-a-kind French ‘art de vivre’.
Maison Pépite brings together five personalities around a haute gastronomy box. How did you meet and get the idea to launch this project?
Hugo Matha: When I designed the uniforms for the Hotel de Crillon, Lucille had put us in touch with someone working at Beluga in order to collaborate on a project that ultimately did not happen. We continued working together through my other company, French Cliché, which I founded with Emily Marant – a label that aims to promote new talents and link them with French craftsmanship to create very limited series of objects. During the first lockdown, Lucille called me back to tell me that she wanted to develop boxes. She wanted to call on Nicolas for the artistic direction of the project.
Lucille Jasmin: We met through gastronomy, and we shared the desire to offer an artistic and culinary experience through the box. Hugo and Nicolas are both passionate about gastronomy, so the project was obvious.
We know you for your work in the field of fashion and luxury, but we didn’t expect you to work in French gastronomy!
Nicolas Ouchenir: I’ve been working with chefs for about seventeen years, and I’m used to illustrating menus, galas, just like I can do it for fashion. This has allowed me to meet many chefs and to work on logo designs for chefs like Yannick Alléno. Hugo was also no stranger to gastronomy because he also designed the uniforms for the chefs of the Hotel de Crillon. From Caviar Kaspia to Pierre Hermé, everything is important in the idea of building new universes and a collective memory. The box, for example, is bound to evolve: the Toile de Jouy motif will be enriched over time.
Hugo Matha: The idea is really that each brand or person who buys the box can customize it.
Lucille Jasmin: For us, that’s the luxury of haute cuisine delivery. It’s benefiting from a unique, fully customizable service, with the possibility of modifying the colors, integrating a logo, choosing a chef, and eventually thinking about a specific menu.
Images © Alban Couturier
Does Maison Pépite also include service?
Hugo Matha: We work with French Cliché to create customized tables for Maison Pépite, with maitre d’hôtel. It’s a high-end service, with tables that will evolve each season, with several choices of tablecloths, plates created exclusively with emerging French artists who highlight French craftsmanship. Emily and I have started to develop a whole series of objects exclusive to Maison Pépite, which will be found on our tables and sold on the French Cliché website. We are currently creating collaborations with young artists associated with Bernardaud, tablecloths from Maison Thevenon, always showcasing French craftsmanship.
Lucille Jasmin: It’s about taking the ‘art de vivre’ out of the box and offering a real culinary universe for various events. For a high-end clientele, there is a need to have a service that takes all these aspects into consideration.
How long has the project been in existence?
Lucille Jasmin: We have been working on it for a year, but it was launched in May. We realize that companies were waiting for an innovation on this aspect of gastronomy, and it brings a new breath of fresh air at a time when we want to think of new solutions and new events. Contrary to what one might think, launching a box at the end of the sanitary crisis is not illogical: it is really what people were waiting for.
It seems like there was a sudden interest for gastronomy, especially since the first lockdown.
Hugo Matha: Lucille and Sonia have been passionate for years. They created their agency, Cook and Com, and are used to working with starred chefs. The box was designed as a solution to the lack of events in 2020, as well as an opportunity to modernize the codes of gastronomy while keeping the essential elements intact: presentation, the attention of detail, and the French ‘art de vivre’.
Lucille Jasmin: Indeed, until now these renowned chef had not considered click-and-collect or at-home delivery. With lockdown, they were forced to adapt. This phenomenon allowed us to understand that something was missing in the culinary industry, and we wanted to create an offer that would match the expectations of a business owner when it comes to haute cuisine experience.
You currently work with five chefs. How did you select them?
Lucille Jasmin: We’re working with five chefs today, but we will welcome two new ones in September, and then a pastry chef as well. We want to diversify our offer, to create collaborations for special occasions throughout the year. We are currently working on a Christmas box with Nicolas. Our ambition is to create unlimited choices in terms of chefs and collaborations so that the offer is not fixed in time. We want to introduce Parisian and regional chefs, as well as young talents who have their own culinary universe.
Why did you choose these five chefs in particular for the launch?
Lucille Jasmin: They are chefs that we like very much and who each have a different universe. Jérôme Banctel embodies a technical yes accessible cuisine, with Japanese inspirations and seafood as main dishes. Jérôme Jaegle, a chef from Alsace, works a lot with vegetal products and has a sustainable approach. Stéphane Jégo is all about generosity and sharing… These are very different and complementary worlds, which allows us to offer menus with fish, meat, vegetables… We also offer a breakfast with Nicolas Paciello, a rising star who revisits the classics of French pastry. It’s very much in line with our DNA.
Is it important for Maison Pépite to work with seasonal products?
Nicolas Ouchenir: We choose chefs for their generosity as well as for their work with seasonal products. We also have our own laboratory located in a school that trains future chefs, the Ceproc. It’s an absolutely brilliant workshop, and it totally fits with Maison Pépite.
Lucille Jasmin: We paid attention to the social and responsible aspect of the project, especially with the packaging, which is made of cardboard produced in Europe and uses vegetable glues. Of course, we try to work essentially with seasonal French products, and that’s how we select the chefs we work with. There is also a whole dimension of integration and education because we are working closely with the Ceproc. The chefs who work with us and come regularly to the laboratory to meet the young students, and it’s great for them to be able to exchange with great names like Jérôme Banctel. We also realized that these chefs then come to hire quite a lot of the Ceproc students. So there is a whole dynamic of transmission and many other possible partnerships.
Why did you choose the Toile de Jouy to decorate the box?
Hugo Matha: The Toile de Jouy is an emblematic French motif, and we wanted to have a strong visual that would be a tribute to the French heritage.
Lucille Jasmin: It’s a modernized Toile de Jouy by Nicolas!
Nicolas Ouchenir: We wanted to show that Maison Pépite is everywhere, from the Trocadero to the mountains of Kilimanjaro… There are many elements of the motif that can be highlighted depending on the season or the project. It brings together the idea of luxury and nature, and it illustrates our desire to show the diversity of chefs, colors, tastes… I tried to represent this through a flat world map, with a new perspective.
As a client, what can you find in a box?
Lucille Jasmin: There are sweet and savory dishes, and all the elements of the meal are encased inside glass jars. We designed it as a practical yet beautiful tray that contains everything you need to enjoy your meal, including detailed preparation tips with the menu. The goal for the launch was for the boxes to be accessible. The prices are all the same regardless of the chef – which is a great way to allo customer to discover our various offer.
Interview: Maxime Der Nahabédian
Portraits: Jean Picon