LE COUCOU: A CULINARY AND PHOTOGRAPHIC EXPERIENCE
By Michael Chinnici
When most of us think about dining at a restaurant, we think about the food. We think about what we’re in the mood for. Or if we’ve been before, memories of a dish we’ve been craving and can’t wait to go back for more. If you are a foodie (like I am), it’s more than just about the meal. It goes deeper than this. It’s about the experience, the cuisine, the ingredients and the presentation. It’s about the ambiance, the history of the restaurant, the chef, and sometimes even about the design and decor. But don’t get me wrong. I love a great down and dirty comfort food joint just as much as I love and admire fine food. Maybe even more.
Being a photographer and a creative director, whenever I discover a restaurant that exudes beauty in the form of design, architecture, decor, and ambiance, I am right there with my camera. It’s like stepping onto a beautifully art directed movie set that is just begging to be photographed. This is what happened this past summer when we had a team breakfast meeting at Le Coucou.
Rose and Starr
Le Coucou is a fine French restaurant located in Soho, in downtown New York. This charming restaurant is the brainchild of internationally acclaimed chef Daniel Rose of Spring and La Bourse et La Vie in Paris and famed restaurateur Stephen Starr, whose restaurant list reads like a who’s who’s of some of the finest restaurants. The stunning setting is designed by Roman and Williams. If you have been to any of the Starr restaurants, the attention to detail at Le Coucou will come as no surprise. Roman and Williams, known for their exceptional work, did a masterful job with the interior design and decor.
With the huge success of Le Coucou, Roman and Williams went one step further and created the Roman and Williams Guild, a collection of furniture, tabletop, lighting, cookware and accessories. They teamed up again with Starr Restaurants and Chef Marie-Aude Rose, the wife of Daniel Rose, to create the new Soho cafe La Mercerie. La Mercerie serves as both a restaurant and a showroom for the R&M Guild’s collection of offerings. It’s a brilliant concept and perhaps the future of retail restaurants.
We were discussing planning for “think orange” while waiting for our breakfast to be served. I couldn’t help but get up and spend a few minutes shooting this restaurant. I had been before, but not with my camera. And as much as the iPhone does it’s job in a pinch, I was eager to see what I could get with my camera. The interior design is soothing and aesthetically pleasing. It draws your eye to the design elements, furnishing, details, lines and colors. The small bar and lounge is cozy and comfortable. The bar with its floral arrangement is so beautifully decorated that photographically I could isolate numerous shots from this gem.
Architecturally, I admired the large pane iron and glass windows allowing the early morning light to stream in. Lighting fixtures hanging from the ceiling were designed to capture your attention and visually appear as the centerpiece of the design. Even the solo loveseat is just begging for you to sit with your date as you wait for your table.
I could have spent all morning shooting. But not to be rude, I shot for a few minutes and then politely returned to our breakfast meeting. Once seated I was served the Coucou Complet. This house special consists of two eggs, poitrine fumee, grilled country bread and pomme darphin. As breakfasts go, all I could say was “wow”. This magnificent entree is truly a masterpiece. When you enjoy your meal and don’t want it to end, it’s safe to say that you really enjoyed it.
Le Coucou has a open kitchen design in the back of the restaurant which adds to the ambiance and intrigue. It’s a great way to listen to what’s going on and watch how the team plates these wonderful entrees.
Photographing food, interior design and architecture are wonderful ways to incorporate a culinary experience and photography at the same time. On our photography adventures I enjoy bringing our guests to amazing restaurants that offer us with this experience. In New York we do just this, whether at Le Coucou or another unique and beautifully designed restaurant.
So the next time you discover a gem of a restaurant, don’t be afraid to reach for your camera. Make the most of what may just be a very inspiring and rewarding experience. Bon Appetite!