A Day in the Life – Gluten Free in Paris

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Frederique Jules working at NOGLU

Frédérique Jules is a pioneer for gluten-free cuisine in Paris. She is the owner of NOGLU, one of only a few completely gluten-free restaurants in the city known for its love affair with wheat.

To understand why Ms. Jules is a pioneer, you have to consider the gluten-free landscape in France. While awareness of celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity has been progressively increasing in the United States, both are still under the radar in France. As a result, restaurants are not yet catering to gluten-free diners in the same manner that many have begun to here.

Ms. Jules recognized this void because she has celiac disease and understands the difficulties of dining gluten free in Paris. The lack of options inspired her to open NOGLU, where she has been providing a gluten-free dining experience for two years. The word “experience” is important. Dining in Paris in not just about eating, it’s intended to be an experience.

NOGLU is a 30-seat farm-to-table restaurant in the passage des Panoramas. The menu changes daily based on availability at the market. There are always fish, meat and vegetarian options and of course, pastries. The three weekly menu staples are pizza on Tuesdays, burgers on Wednesday and lasagna on Thursday. “As a celiac, I know that we want pasta, the crunch of [a crisp] pizza [crust],” Ms. Jules explains. She also understands the importance of dessert. “At the end of lunch I always have dessert.”

noglu 2I had the privilege of dining, or should I say “experiencing,” NOGLU in February during a vacation in Paris. It was a Saturday night and the restaurant was packed. From start to finish, my meal was exceptional: potato and leek soup into which I dipped my gluten-free bread, lamb with pureed potatoes and glazed carrots and a moist lemon tart.

I left NOGLU physically full, but hungry to learn more about Ms. Jules and what it takes to run a gluten-free restaurant in Paris. I had the opportunity to find out about her day while she was in New York City for the opening of her husband’s new restaurant.  Over tea at the Greenwich Hotel in Tribeca, Ms. Jules graciously shared the day-to-day workings of her restaurant.

NOGLU is her first restaurant. “My husband has many restaurants so that was why I was thinking to open one,” she says. Through watching her husband’s restaurant operations she learned firsthand how to run one. However, there was still a learning curve.

“At the beginning it was really hard to find products certified,” she says. Even finding chefs was difficult. “I met a lot of people and I found one chef and one pastry chef and I said, ‘Ok we can try, the challenge to do gluten-free.’” It’s been getting easier.  NOGLU is quite busy these days and serves up to 80 on some Sundays for brunch. Ms. Jules is even preparing to open a take-out version of NOGLU with sandwiches and pastries. Here’s what she says about her typical day, though it’s hard to imagine an average day in Paris.

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Diners at NOGLU

What time do you wake up?

I wake up at 7:00 a.m.

What’s for breakfast?

Breakfast is light because at the restaurant I have to test a lot of things.  Every day I am testing either a cake, muffin or another dessert. I also test vegetables and soup. I have a light breakfast that is usually a smoothie made with almond milk and a little bit of fruit, gluten-free toast and tea. We have wonderful bread at NOGLU.

I arrive at the restaurant a 9:00 a.m. I have to check the telephone messages. I am in charge of the products. My chefs are Japanese and American and do not speak French well. I have to take care of expenses. I’m doing the service for lunch. In the afternoon we have a meeting with the team.

What are your daily responsibilities at the restaurant?

I have to check the menu to be sure it’s what I want – it’s what people want. We have some orders each day. Sometimes we have journalists who call. I have to check the stocks. Between noon and 3:30 p.m., I am serving. I like the contact, it’s important.

What’s surprising about your day?

It’s really physical. I didn’t think about the physicality when I opened NOGLU. We have steps in the restaurant. I think it’s good that I was a runner when I was younger.

What’s your favorite part of the day?

I love the morning because the day is starting, and we don’t know what will happen. We have a lot of work preparing for a nice lunch. Everyone is concentrating. It’s the most important part of the day. If something is bad in the morning the day is off.

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An entree at NOGLU

How late do you work?

I’m in the restaurant until 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. At home I work from 9:30 to 11:00 p.m. handling online reservations and working on the menu. The menu depends on the market. We call the night before for fish and vegetables and arrive from small farm every week. It’s really nice.

What’s for dinner?

Dinner is light. I have it with my two daughters. It’s always veggies and rice or cereal. No meat, no fish. For my daughter there are always cookies from NOGLU.

How has owning this restaurant changed you?

I have to manage a lot of people. I had to change. I always was a hard worker, but now I think I’m harder with my employees. I am the boss and they see me as the boss. It’s not always easy. My relations with people changed. I also have to be passionate with the clients.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

I wanted to say that celiac disease is a way of life now. We know it’s important for us. Some people say it’s a mod [trend]. It’s not a mod. It’s a way of life. I see so many children. The parents say, “We have a big problem she is celiac.” I say, “You are different, but you will be happy. Have you seen all the good pastries?” I just want to say it’s not finished when you are celiac. It’s not sad. It’s different. There has to always be a positive message. You can have a good lunch and dinner. You have to cook. You have to be interested in cooking.

Guest blogger Susan Cohen regularly writes the New for You column for Gluten-Free Living and also contributes to the In the Mix column.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)