On a cool October evening last fall, thousands of Parisians stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the Boulevard de Belleville between the metro stations Couronnes and Ménilmontant, each hoping for something delicious from one of the 20 restaurants and local vendors selling the likes of Portuguese pastels and Scotch eggs. Among them, but never lost in the crowd, was the woman responsible for this new scene dubbed Le Food Market: Virginie Godard.
The 32-year-old launched Paris’ first free outdoor food market in July 2015, modeling it after those in Berlin, a city she visits regularly.
“In Berlin, you break the rules and you feel more free,” says Godard. “It’s a stereotype, but it’s true. You can see a grandma and a punk talking together.”
Her goal was to bring a similar vibe to Paris through its eclectic food offerings and the personalities who create them. While it’s not quite a regular monthly occurrence just yet, there have been five in Belleville so far and it’s made this Paris native quite the foodie femme about town.
This month marks Le Food Market’s first foray outside Paris and into Lyon where Godard has partnered with the annual Nuits Sonores Music Festival to arrange an all day pop-up of 15-stands where festival-goers can munch on Ethiopian dishes and sip on fresh juices among other small bites and tasty drinks.
“I had never even been to Lyon before, and now if you ask me where to go, I know everything,” says Godard, who spent three weeks in the city “eating a lot.”
“At the beginning it was so cool like a dream job,” she says, while switching between an allonge and a fresh mixed juice at Paris’s Hardware Sociéte cafe in Montmartre. “But at the end it was like, ‘Oh, I don’t feel good.’”
With the exception of peanuts and turmeric, both of which she’s highly allergic, there’s nothing she doesn’t eat. She credits her love for food and all you can do with it to weekends spent cooking with her mother at her childhood country house, and eats out nearly every day of the week—often times twice. (Though, she admits, she does keep fresh soup stocked in the fridge of her apartment in the 20th arrondissement.)
Despite her ardent love for all things butter and brains (she recently fell in love with les cerveaux at Raquel Carena’s restaurant Le Baratin), Godard actually started out in fashion working for the international trade show Who’s Next, where she began as an accessory buyer before becoming the company’s artistic director.
After seven years, she got the itch to create her own company and launched Cordialement in 2014. She continues to consult for Who’s Next, as well as for Cosmo Paris for which she arranges the shoe brand’s windows at its flagship store on Rue Saint-Honoré. She’s even finding ways to feed the fashion circuit itself by curating unique, but likeminded Le Food Market events for labels including Isabel Marant who hired her for a private party at Hotel Particulier in July.
That said, Godard stresses her desire to keep this “passion project” public: “My goal is to have something popular, but really for everyone.”
Parisian punks and Grandmas alike.