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Parisians hooked on new craze, flock to U.S.-style food trucks

Customers say the trucks’ food is beyond what’s normally available for a quick bite.

PARIS: In the latest American food craze to catch on in France, Parisians are flocking to U.S.-style food trucks for gourmet burgers, artisanal tacos and other non-French street foods.

Usually uber-traditionalists when it comes to dining, Parisians have fallen hard for the food trucks, with some queuing for up to two hours at lunch time to sample their wares.

Among the most popular is Le Camion Qui Fume (The Smoking Truck), a burger truck run by California native Kristin Frederick that on a recent afternoon saw a long line of customers waiting for a bite.

“In Paris you can eat very well on the go, but often it’s very expensive. The truck is a good alternative,” said Frederick, who studied at a Paris culinary school and worked in a restaurant here before launching the venture.

The truck’s speciality is an eight-euro ($10) hamburger – 10 euros with French fries – made with specially chosen ground beef, aged Swiss or French cheese and caramelized onions.

Frederick said the ground meat found in French butchers – normally used for making the raw beef dish steak tartare – doesn’t work perfectly for making a burger.

“I choose the pieces of beef myself to find the ‘real taste’ of meat and fat,” the 31-year-old said.

Le Camion Qui Fume moves to different locations throughout the city and keeps fans posted of its travels through its website. It’s proven so popular that Frederick said she’s planning to launch a second truck.

“It’s a nice change from a ham sandwich” said one client, Myriam, as she enjoyed one of the truck’s burgers.

“To find a good burger in Paris you normally have to go to posh hotels or bars. Here it’s more friendly and relaxed,” her daughter Annaelle added.

Another popular food truck, Cantine California, launched three months ago and serves tacos and burgers made with organic meat, a rarity in France.

The truck uses hand-pressed tortillas with corn flour brought in from Mexico and organic pork shoulder from France that slow-cooked in adobe chipotle from Mexico, said its owner Jordan Feilders, a Canadian partly raised in France.

“There’s a meeting of different worlds and really good produce that I think meets people’s expectations on things just tasting good,” he said.

He said working out of a truck did make cooking tricky though.

“Being out on the road and having to rely on everything you have with you is very unforgiving, so we need to have everything with us, and a little bit more, ideally,” he said.

“If there’s a knife missing, or a box of prep that didn’t make it into the truck, it can quickly turn into a disaster.”

Customers said the truck’s food went far beyond what’s normally available for a quick bite.

“It’s really good,” one female customer said. “It’s excellent, very succulent ... Oh no, this is nothing like fast food, not at all.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 04, 2012, on page 12.

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