Was Bob’s Juice bar the first of its kind? Are you noticing an uprise within the wellness movement in France?
It is true that we were the first to propose cold pressed juice in Paris. It was under the banner of Bob’s Cold Press. BUT we ended up dropping it and sticking with old-school centrifugal juice in our restaurants. I prefer that experience and that juice. I have nothing against cold pressed juice per se, but it’s a different business and one that I suspect will ultimately be dominated by industrial juice brands if it is not already the case. The cold pressed juice we were making cost a fortune to make and deliver and didn’t taste as good as the centrifugal juice made to order. I was also uncomfortable with the dubious health claims associated with cold pressed juice. We make fresh juice. It’s natural. It tastes great. Makes me feel really good. I will leave it at that. We do still do cold pressed juice for large orders however.
What encouraged you to move to France and open up Bob’s Juice Bar?
My wife is French is the short answer for why I moved here. We met in New York and lived together for a few years in New York and Los Angeles before moving to France. I was a filmmaker or ‘aspiring filmmaker’ at the time and figured I could write from anywhere so why not try France. Ended up having different day jobs to pay the bills like teaching English and translating screenplays while continuing to pursue my own film work. We had a couple of kids. Initially there was this idea that ‘someone should open a juice bar’. There was very little in the way of health food or vegetarian food in Paris at that time. Then the idea grew into a fantasy of something I would do someday, like when I sold a screenplay or something. Before moving to France I used to go to this little French cafe in Soho called Ceci Cela where you would see the owner, a not particularly friendly French guy, in the back reading a book. That was a reference for me. I thought 'I will own a little juice and work on screenplays in the back'. One day, I discovered this little place for rent across the street from our apartment and then, very impulsively, decided to take it and open Bob’s Juice Bar. There was no business plan. It was literally, one day I was working on my screenplay and one week later, I had borrowed 25 thousand dollars from my brother and mother, shoved the screenplay in the drawer and signed the lease.
When did you open up shop and how have things changed since? We’re curious to know if you’ve seen a shift or swell in interest through the years.
We opened in 2006. Like I said there wasn’t a lot in the way of alternative or health food at that time. We were not the first juice bar, there were very few and none of the ones I was a aware of at that time still exist today. This was pre-Instagram. Pre-cold pressed juice. Pre-a-lot-of-things. We were like the only game in town at that time. Or at least it felt that way. Today, there is a saturation of expat concepts, trendy cafés and cold pressed juice places. I think that’s also why I dropped the cold pressed juice angle. I didn’t want to be jumping on a food trend band wagon (and it was losing money).
Are you noticing an uprise within the wellness movement in France?
There is more of everything. More health food and yoga, for sure. But also more burgers and junk food too. And I think it is very often for the same consumers. General trendiness run amok.
Being a native New Yorker now living in France, can you explain the French philosophy towards juicing? We’re curious to know if the approach to “living well” differs from the US and France?
There are cold pressed juice customers in Paris, but I think they are often foreigners or well traveled creatives (fashion people definitely) looking for what the are used to finding in places like New York and London or wanting to follow those trends. The French, in general, I think are more conservative and a little less intense or neurotic about their food choices. They love food and beverages generally, including juice, but are less likely to buy into some diet or philosophy like raw food or Paleo. But the awareness and interest is definitely growing. It is just far from mainstream.
Have you always been inspired by plant medicine and food? How did you get here?
I've always liked juice and have at various times in my life looked to diet as a way to feel better and be healthier, but it has always been an on-again off-again thing for me. Fasting appeals to me for that reason - like a medicinal experience that will cure me of my otherwise self destructive ways. My father was into natural hygiene and juicing (think Fit for Life) when I was a kid so I had an early awareness of the idea of food as medicine. Juice has always been the thing I look to when I trying to clean up my act and get back to a healthy place. It was at such times in Paris, prior to opening Bob’s, that I would feel like, ‘someone should really open up a Juice Bar.’
Can you tell us a few of your most popular menu items?
Blueberry Protein Shakes with blueberries, almond milk and avocado; green smoothies with mango and baby spinach; Big Makis (vegan futomakis with avocado, mango and brown rice); Bagels with various toppings. We also make our own bagels at Bob’s Bake Shop. These days Bob’s really reflects my own eating habits with a idiosyncratic mix of health food and not-health food. I am trying to satisfy the whole family whether someone is vegan, gluten-free, what have you or someone just wants good pancakes and coffee.
How does living in Paris influence your mission?
It allows me to do American food and New York food in ways I would never do if I were in New York. What would be the point? At the same time, New York, for me is the New York I knew growing up and before moving to Paris 18 years ago. It’s not the actual New York of today though I do go back regularly and can’t help being influenced. The original idea for Bob’s Juice Bar was a straight up Juice Bar - like Lucky’s Juice Joint circa 1988, but quickly evolved to include cookies and muffins as part of a more general New York shop whereas at the same time in New York places were starting to do cold pressed juice with very specific criteria. All of which is to say, being in Paris allows me to be more of a generalist. I also get a lot of mileage out of being a New Yorker in Paris. My schtick, as it were.
You’ve recently expanded into the world of catering, Bob’s To Go. We know juicing is a laborious effort! Who do you generally cater to and what’s the process like to prepare juice for large groups?
Mostly fashion customers. A lot of photoshoots and showrooms. While we don’t do cold pressed juice for the restaurants, we will do it for catering clients if we need a lot of juice prepared in advance that needs to keep. The cold pressed process is ideal for making large amounts of juice in advance.