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Thematics :

Louis Jacquot and Sébastien Prunier are two NEOMA students (PGE 2011) who set out on a social entrepreneurship adventure in 2015. They were inspired by the migration crisis which they transformed into a fantastic opportunity and an act of solidarity. Cuistots Migrateurs (*Migratory Chefs) saw the light of day in Louis Jacquot's small apartment kitchen.

We met up with Louis Jacquot in the premises of their brand new restaurant-café, Pop Up, in Paris near the St Ambroise metro station in the 11th arrondissement, to talk about this incredible adventure. An encounter with a big-hearted entrepreneur.

Can you tell us something about your background?

After attending Prep School in Lyon, I joined the NEOMA Maser in Management programme and decided to follow the Entrepreneurship option in first year. I could easily see myself staring my own company or doing something on the web. Sébastien (Prunier ed.), co-founder of Les Cuistots, has a similar background. We did our internships in Asia and England and we met through a mutual friend in China. After our studies, we started our professional careers. Sébastien worked in finance and I had a job in marketing. Then one day, we got together with the idea of setting up a joint project in a sector that fascinates both of us: world cuisine. We looked at all the different possibilities, improving on anything that already existed. But with one vital condition: we wanted our project to have a social dimension.

When the issue of migration hit the headlines in 2015, we were astounded by the negative views of refugees. These people were never portrayed as a source of wealth, but only as a problem... That's how the idea of the Cuistots Migrateurs (*Migratory Chefs) came about and we became the first restaurant in the world to employ refugees.

To what extent did your studies at NEOMA help you put together your social entrepreneurship project?

NEOMA gave me the chance to go to Canada on an academic exchange with a partner university. By chance, I enrolled on a non-profit marketing course that proved to be a revelation for me. The course really changed my vision of the world.

What inspired you to embark on an entrepreneurial adventure?

Myself and Sebastian had two desires. The first was to breathe new life into the sector of 'world cuisine' catering. There are a lot of outlets for consumers in Paris, but mainly as fast food. And the kind of food on offer tends to be the same. Who could name an Ethiopian or Iranian dish, for example? Another point concerns the cooks who actually prepare the food in the kitchens and who don't necessarily know what they are cooking....
Our second desire was to highlight the diversity the migrants represent and to break down the preconceived idea that they are a threat and a problem. For us, they are a valuable source of wealth.

Tell us about Cuistots Migrateurs, how you operate and who the cooks are ?

Cuistots restoLes Cuistots Migrateurs provides a world cuisine catering service and employs refugee chefs and is also a restaurant in the 11th arrondissement in Paris. We employ statutory refugees who have the right to work. They have permanent contracts and this is often their first stable, declared job
We meet the cooks through humanitarian associations. Our migrant cooks join us because they are keen to integrate and love cooking, although for some, this isn't their true profession.

Les Cuistots Migrateurs started in the kitchen of my small Parisian apartment. Since then, this has really grown and we now have around thirty full-time employees. Half work in the kitchen and the others play a supporting role. We provide buffets for our customers ranging from 20 to 1600 people! It's a record that's just waiting to be broken! Since the beginning of the adventure, we've provided catering for something like 400,000 people.

What are your plans for the immediate future?

Cuistos livreLast year was a busy year with the opening of the restaurant (Le Pop Up ed.) and the publication of a book.
In 2020, like for the entire restaurant sector, the Covid-19 crisis has had a huge impact. To cope, we introduced a lunchbox delivery service for companies. This turned out to be quite a success for those firms whose canteens have not yet reopened. With the end of the lockdown, Pop Up has also reopened with a takeaway and delivery service. We can also offer the possibility of eating on-site thanks to our terrace. The kitchens are not fully-staffed yet, but we hope to resume a full service very soon!

Do you have a message or any advice for today's students?

I'd advise them to try and get internship experience in as many different business environments as possible. Try working in big companies and start-ups and get to know a wide range of organisational models!


Read on and discover the story of Faeeq El-Mhana, Chef de Partie at Cuistots Migrateurs

Cuistos Faek

Faeeq started out as a commis chef at Cuistots Migrateurs. He has since worked his way up through the ranks to become Chef de partie and today supervises a team in French. Without taking a break from his cooking, Faeeq responds to our questions. Portrait.

Where are you from and what did you do before arriving in France ?

I'm from Syria originally. From Bassir, to be precise. A village of 3,000 inhabitants located in Hauran, 20 kilometers from Al-Mismiya. I have a two-year University diploma in electronics. I dreamed of becoming a car dealer, but things turned out quite differently.

Before fleeing Syria for France, I was a master-butcher. I took care of the meat, the cutting, the equipment and the customers.

How did you come across the Cuistots Migrateurs ?

I've been with the Cuistots Migrateurs team for almost 3 years now. I was one of the very first to join the adventure. When I got my work permit, I met Sébastien (Prunier, one of the co-founders) through a mutual friend. He needed help in the kitchen and so I started helping out as a commis chef.

What do you like most about Cuistots Migrateurs ?

I love my job. It's like being part of a fraternity with the Cuistots Migrateurs. There is a really good atmosphere with everyone who works together here. I love this profession, I like learning from other cooks and making good food.

What's your favourite dish ?

It's so difficult to name just one! I'd probably say "Ruz bi shakriyeh", a kind of lamb and yoghurt stew that my grandmother used to make on special occasions... No! "Freekeh", a dish made with smoked green wheat with almonds and pine nuts. It's not on the Cuistots Migrateurs menu, but I love it!

cuistots recette Ruz bi shakryeh