|Stuff Parisians Like: Discovering the Quoi in the Je Ne Sais Quoi|
Author: Olivier Magny
Can be purchased at Amazon.com, Itunes, or any major bookstores
We first met Olivier Magny at a social function at his wine bar "O-chateau wine bar" in Paris, Spring 2011. I was very impressed with his knowledge of wine as well as the beautiful wine bar itself. While vacationing in the US I got a text from my best friend Steve, also vacationing in the U.S. (San Diego), that Olivier is having a book signing party. I thought is this the same Olivier we know in Paris, and sure enough it was. I had no idea he was also a writer. So, I immediately went on Itunes and bought and downloaded his book, “Stuff Parisians Like”. I was expecting a book about wine, but instead Olivier wrote a book about the Parisian psyché. I remembered he had an excellent command of the English language, but I was very surprised how well he also writes, considering English is not his primary language. There have been many books written about the French psyché, but none more informative and entertaining than from a French/Parisian perspective. His book is extremely well written, witty and just enjoyable. His view of Paris and Parisians is honest and simply spot on.
I was hoping that part of his tour would bring him to Northern California, but unfortunately, he was not able to include Northern California for this trip. I wanted so much to organize a book signing party to introduce him to our community, but, oh well “à la prochaine” (next time). However, I was able to interview him and ask him questions about himself and his book.
Olivier, I know you’re a native Parisian, but can you tell me a little about yourself and how you started in the “wine” business?
Well, I longed for a life with a bit more poetry. Wine seemed like a sensible path.
Now that I’ve recently discovered that you’re also a writer, what inspired you to write this book?
Well, it seems as if many foreigners just idolize Paris glamour, Paris beauty, Paris culture. On the other hand, many provinciaux simply hate anything Paris. Both sides seemed to me quite exaggerated, full of clichés and rather uninformed about the real Paris life. I guess in the end, I just wanted to provide people with good reasons to love or hate my fellow Parisians. So I started to write. Turned out that I realy enjoyed it and that people liked what I was writing. I’m just truly lucky.
I understand that you lived in the San Diego area for a couple of years. Did living in the US influence you in any way? And, if so how?
Probably. First it helped me gain a better command of English. And it was fascinating for the young Parisian that I was to see so many laid back, positive, enthusiastic people. Let’s say most Parisians could use a bit more of these characteristics.
Living in Paris is a challenge for most Americans, what was the biggest challenge you had to overcome when you lived in the US?
Two mainly: price of wine and absence of good bread.
Have you lived in other countries as well? And, if so, what influences did they have on you.
Nope. Visited many but never lived in any other.
I’ve read many books about the Parisian psyché, but from ex-pats such as Stephen Clarke. We all have our stereotypes, but as a Frenchman, what one stereotype did you want to debunk for your readers?
Several I guess. But the one that has grown to be the most compellingly untrue is the whole “joie de vivre” thing. I tried to be as “real” as possible in my articles. Being a true Parisian, I might have a denser, somehow deeper understanding of the whole social circus that Paris life is. This book is just me trying to unveil a few secrets, making fun of all these very serious clowns.
I have a love-hate relationship with Paris, as well as the U.S. As a Parisian, what is the one thing you really love about Paris and the one thing you really “dislike”? And, on the flip-side, is there something you really like about the U.S. and “dislike”?
My favorite thing about Paris: warm baguette tradition, pas trop cuite. The thing I dislike the most: la vibe très négative. Favorite thing about the US: I think Chris Rock is a genius
Thing I dislike the most: how slow the line at customs is for non-residents
If there is one important piece of advice you can give my readers who may be thinking about moving to Paris, what would that be?
If your love for beauty, food and wine surpasses your hatred for rain, negative people and paperwork, then you’re in good shape.
Now a little bit about your wine bar? What inspired you to open O’Chateau? My first impressions were that the layout, size and ambience, if you will, were very American in nature. Was your design element inspired by your stay in the US?
I guess what we tried to do was to come up with a place that was not only beautiful, soothing and nice but also convivial. Paris can get quite clicky and both Nicolas Paradis (my business partner) and I wanted to create a place where it’d be easy to meet people and interact both with the sommeliers and with other similar-minded clients. That is why we designed this beautiful bar in the middle, just to create the conditions of a nice friendly moment. I think O Chateau is one of the only places in Paris where you can come on your own, for dinner and drinks and you won’t feel awkward at all because you’ll meet people in no time. Now the place is a 17th century building so we also tried to respect the history of the place by cleaning up the stunning limestone walls and the cellar vaults. I guess your American remark stems from the fact that, by Paris standards, O Chateau is quite large. It is indeed. And we love it… We wanted each space to have its own personality and for the whole thing to just be nice.
I guess in a word, we tried to create the place we’d like to come hang out at. We realy love it and it’s nice to see that other people do too.
|68, rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau|
You’re extremely knowledgeable about French wines; however, outside of France, what is your favorite wine region(s)?
We are truly blessed in France. My preference outside of France might go to New Zealand.
You’re relatively young, what would you like to see yourself doing 10-years from now?
Wow!! Something I like hopefully. Hopefully by then I will have achieved my life-long dream: learning how to hip-hop dance.
Olivier, besides amazon and Itunes, where else can they get your book, e.g., are they available at most major bookstores?
Major bookstores do carry it yes. In Paris, you can get signed copies at O Chateau. Otherwise, English bookstores like WH Smith or Garigliani on Rue de Rivoli carry it too. And if people want to practice their French, they should look up Dessine-moi un Parisien (the French version), also available everywhere.
I’ve truly had a fabulous past few months and I’m so thankful. Things right now may seem all shiny and nice, but they haven’t always been. What I’ve learned since I started O Chateau is that if you truly want something and really work hard at it AND put your heart at it, things end up coming together. So voilà!! (If you haven’t already, go on YouTube and watch "What the bleep do we know" – truly inspiring).
Summary: I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Olivier is not only a great sommelier, but also a great writer and "video" personality. I’ve read so many books about Paris, but written by ex-pats, I laughed, I cried, but I’ve never really read an “honest” book from a Parisian man’s perspective. Since I live mostly in Paris, there was a lot of information that was familiar; however, I was surprised to learn quite a bit of new information about the Parisian psyché. Who better to delve into the Parisian psyché than a Parisian himself? I strongly encourage you to read this very enjoyable, informative and honest book.
As for Olivier's wine bar, please see my review "O-Chateau review".