The question is inescapable thanks to the Middle Eastern influences and the celebration of vegetables that are the hallmarks of both chefs. Encountering Ottolenghi’s cooking during a gap year in London was a formative experience for the young Frenchman Julien Sebbag. Any parallels can only be flattering but are merely skin-deep. Now, Sebbag is forging his own distinct path as an artistic director of sorts. He is a self-taught chef, for whom cooking is about the palate, but also an ecosphere that is theatrical and includes music, fashion, art, communion and joie de vivre. Sebbag’s playful cooking videos have made him a social media star and seen him featured in the New York Times.
Toast d’abricots rôtis au miel, ricotta maison, romarin frit et échalote pickles 🖤
There is no better place to experience Sebbag’s world than at Créatures, on the roof of Galeries Lafayette’s flagship Haussmann store in Paris. He described it to us recently as a “wonderful refuge”. Indeed, as you work your way through the crowds and emerge onto the rooftop, it’s hard, even for the most jaded Parisians who make up much of the clientele, not to gasp when you catch the first breathtaking panoramic view of the city. This is perhaps one of best vantage points in all of Paris from which to see the Opéra, Sacre Cœur and the Eiffel Tower.
An explosion of color, energy and a sensuous celebration of vegetarian cuisine, amazing baked goods, bread from Mamiche and cocktails are all on the menu at Créatures, the annual pop-up. It stays open through mid-October, serving food from breakfast until midnight. It has become one of our favorite go-to’s for delicious, healthy food and great cocktails. We spoke with Sebbag recently about his stint at Créatures, his Jewish heritage, inspiration via London and Tel-Aviv and more.
Born in the Pigalle district of Paris, Sebbag’s father came from Morocco and his mother, of Polish/Belgian descent. There are two pillars of Sebbag’s identity that influence him and his work: his Sephardic and Ashkenazi roots. Jewish traditions were integral to his upbringing.
The young chef entered the world of cooking late. Education came through watching others, and on the job, without going to culinary school. He was drawn to the world of contemporary art and enrolled in business school in his early 20s. The chance to study abroad brought Julien to London which was a revelation. Here, he explored the history, architecture, and mixing of genres and cultures, following the trail of the Beatles to Abbey Road, and crawling every pub played by the Arctic Monkeys. But the biggest concern: where to find the best food?
This was the golden age of food courts and celebrity chefs. It was in London, in 2015, where Sebbag discovered Yotam Ottolenghi whose approach to vegetables – raw, indulgent, colorful, with Israeli influences and above all, passion – are echoed at Créatures.
After returning to Paris, Sebbag decided to go on to Tel Aviv to cultivate his growing interest in food. Eating at Eyal Shani’s Miznon in the city was also a revelation. Shani would become a great mentor. Sebbag found a few kitchens in the city willing to give him a chance at work experience. It was a rough trial by fire.
How is it that an aspiring chef from one of the gastronomic capitals of the world found his inspiration in Israel’s second city and the British capital? Sebbag explains to us, “I think I arrived in Tel Aviv and London at the right time. These cities were exploding in terms of gastronomy and street food especially. The helter-skelter, rock-n-roll side of Tel Aviv and the open cosmopolitan qualities of London were a great inspiration. It was perfect timing on a personal level too because I was in the process of finding myself. These cities are my guiding lights.”
Upon returning to Paris, Sebbag worked at Miznon for two years while studying for his master’s degree in business. Gradually finding his voice, he filmed himself for Instagram and started home catering. A friend of a friend asked Julien to cater a birthday. He cooked in front of the guests who filmed him in his element, having fun. A few shares on social networks and soon his account was overwhelmed by reservation requests. Je cuisine chez toi was born.
Féta marinée dans un mélange d’épices torréfiées et d’huiles d’olive et de sésame 🖤 Ça se conserve super bien au frigo et ça upgrade n’importe quelle salade ou poisson grillé !
As a prolific creator on social media, Julien Sebbag’s videos are natural, full of energy, flirtation, and fun. They play no small part in his notoriety.
When asked about his organic ability to create a “universe” on the platforms he explains that “social media is only interesting when it is authentic. I want to show what makes me tick and the result is of little consequence. I’m lucky to have grown up with it so I think I’ve grasped the rules.” For those artists and other individuals who feel less at ease with it, his advice: “be yourself and show what fascinates you. That’s where the fascination is for others and emotion shines through. Your personality is the real plus. I truly love music and fashion, it’s an essential part of my daily existence.”
Créatures, Terrace of Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann
The epiphany about vegetables that Sebbag had in London via Ottolenghi was the inspiration for the meat-free menu at Créatures. It is a gigantic playground of sorts, open to the sky and the roofs of Paris, where, he explained to us, vegetables are “the primary means of expression.”
Sebbag’s heritage and passions permeate the atmosphere at Créatures. “My Jewish origins are deeply rooted in my way of cooking. The sharing plates at Créatures are inspired by this. Those evenings during Jewish holidays where there are lots of plates, shared family-style in the middle of the table along with hot or cold salads. There is always challah as a starter which you’ll find at Créatures. This is also where my affinity for Mediterranean cuisine comes from. I am obviously a product of my French upbringing too and this is reflected in the choice of quality local products, certain cooking techniques and pastry”.
This is the 5th season of the festive concept, which serves Mediterranean cuisine. One of the best things about the restaurant is that especially in August it can be tricky to find restaurants open in the city, let alone ones serving excellent vegetarian food with a spectacular setting.
In addition to its signature vegetarian dishes, they also serve breakfast as well as excellent cocktails. On our recent lunch visit we sampled a number of dishes. The Greek Salad was delicious – made with the freshest vegetables, smoky feta marinated in sesame oil, tapenade-like chopped olives, sumac and herbs. Another stand-out was the roasted sweet potato with smooth tahini, nuts, bright herbs, pickled red onion and sumac.
Stunning fruits and vegetables, treats from the in-house bakery, bread from Mamiche, and sumptuous cocktails – all served with good vibes and the best views of Paris. What better entrée into the world of Julien Sebbag?
Nearest Metro Line: Chaussée d’Antin La Fayette (lines 7 and 9), Opéra (lines 3,7, and 8), Havre – Caumartin (Line 3 and 9)
Hours: 10:00 am to 1:00 am
Follow Créatures on Instagram
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