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Cooking, a universal subject, is a significant lever for integration, and through it, two NEOMA graduates, Louis Jacquot and Sébastien Prunier (MiM 2011), instilled greater meaning in their company, Les Cuistots Migrateurs. It is a great example of CSR in food.

Start a company, sure. But not just to earn money. Louis Jacquot et Sébastien Prunier from the MiM Class of 2011 also wanted to give their business meaning. “Having the business offer something positive, that was a prerequisite for the project,” Louis said. And they achieved this goal. Since 2015, the two graduates have been the head of Les Cuistots Migrateurs, an event catering company. In their kitchen you’ll find recognised refugees, people who were threatened in their countries and received asylum rights and a work permit. These people have been at times drivers, victims of slavery, soldiers, but rarely cooks. “Still, they have great passion for cooking and want to share their recipes,” Louis Jacquot said.

©Guillaume Czerw

It was the 2015 migrant crisis that triggered the idea. Louis and Sébastien wanted to show that these men and women who came from far-off lands have positive things to offer. “Cooking is universal and really positive. We all want to enjoy good meals and taste new recipes.” Through their work and contribution, Cuistots Migrateurs can highlight “rich, authentic, high-quality world cuisine” as the two entrepreneurs sought to display. Their idea also rested on the plan to renew the “world cuisine” offer and find a happy medium between food that ended up becoming standardised to the point of being a caricature and food that remains only known within certain community circles.

Offering long-term contracts to refugees

Louis and Sébastien have made cooking into a lever for integration. But to have a positive impact, they needed to offer solid work contracts to the recognised refugees and not let Cuistots turn into a platform for freelance or independent workers. “These people do not want to receive minimal social welfare. They want a stable situation where they work and earn money.” Whereas the world sees people with hardships ahead of them because these migrants from Syria, Nepal, Iran and elsewhere have suffered a lot, the two entrepreneurs met “very motivated people who are full of energy.” The only snag is their level of French. “At the beginning we hired Tarek, he didn’t speak our language at all. It was a great challenge, but it was very hard.” Even more considering that cooking is a group activity.

The two founders of the Cuistots migrateurs Sebastien-Louis-©WilliamKano

No problem. Why not create a cooking school that blend French language classes with cooking classes? The school opened in December 2020 under the status of an association. It is free and offers a certificate. “It helped us expand our social mission. The migrants receive training and find work. Nearly 100% of our students landed a permanent contract upon leaving the programme.” The school also helps the company find new cooks. “Due to our expansion, we have an increasing need for experienced staff and like the entire catering sector, we’re having trouble with recruitment.”

Company/association: a solid model for a social and solidarity economy

Cuistots Migrateurs is both a company and an association. “This dual model should be considered. It seems to me to be a very worthwhile social scheme,” Louis Jacquot said. “It is increasingly common in the social and solidarity economy. Between the company and the association, you can share knowledge and skills, share the revenue from the company with the association, and have a tool for recruiting. And that helps expand the social impact.” And cooking, a universal subject, is the perfect conduit for integration.


Find all the articles in our “Entrepreneurship in Food” series

Entreprise in Food#1: the French revolution – NEOMA (neoma-bs.com)

Entreprise in Food#2: Feedback – NEOMA (neoma-bs.com)