Kristin Frederick: On Opening Paris’s First Food Truck

July 9, 2015 1:49 pm Last Updated: March 8, 2018 5:30 pm

“It’s very un-Paris to eat on the street,” said Kristin Frederick. The chef from California took up the challenge of opening the City of Light’s first food truck in 2011, after attending culinary school in Paris.

“It was an administrative nightmare,” she added.

But its time had come. Young people, Frederick said, are well-traveled, and wanted to be able to have a burger as they might in New York City.

“French food in general has a very take-your-time, eat-it, love-it two-hour lunches. But like any big city, they need faster lunch solutions. Two-hour lunches are over,” Frederick said.

Her first food truck, Le Camion Qui Fume (the Smoking Truck in French), set off a burger mania.

Prospective competitors contacted her suppliers, looking to use the same buns, or the same meat blend (to which her meat supplier responded, they couldn’t have it because it was her recipe).

But the beginning was fraught with naysayers. “It was shocking. Every day until we opened, when we opened when I shared my ideas with people, the response was negative: It will never work, people will think it’s gross.”

But she stuck with the idea, believing that if it was good, people would love it. She was right.

She had to find the right meat blend at first. The French butchers had a high-quality cut they used for grinding but it was made for tartare and thus extremely lean. Restaurants were using this cut and cooking up very dry, flavorless burgers. Frederick added tastier cuts into her blend.

Cheese was the easiest to procure. She uses Gruyère from the Alps, fourme d’Ambert, Etivaz, for example.

As for the buns, she remembered asking her breadmaker if he could supply her 300–500 buns a week. He told her he couldn’t make that many.

The bestseller these days is the Barbecue burger. Frederick’s favorite is the Campagne, with mushrooms sautéed in butter.

Le Camion Qui Fume's Barbecue Burger. (David Bonnier/Tana Editions)
Le Camion Qui Fume’s Barbecue Burger. (David Bonnier/Tana Editions)

There are a few Le Camion Qui Fume trucks plying the streets every day these days while Frederick attends to her other projects: a popcorn bar in a movie theater (with real melted butter, and toppings like rose praline), Freddie’s (an American style sandwich shop, serving Philly cheesesteaks and pastrami made in-house), and the latest, Huabu, which serves Americanized Chinese food.