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PARIS — Yes, bread and milk are sold there, but Alain Ducasse’s new spot is hardly your average corner store.
Be, an abbreviation of “boulangerie-épicerie,” and fusion of the standard French grocery and bakery, is a sleek outpost stocked with mouth-watering sandwiches and gourmet ingredients galore. Located at 73 Boulevard de Courcelles in the eighth arrondissement, it took Ducasse and well-known baker Eric Kayser two years to fine-tune the concept.
Kayser, who owns 10 bakeries worldwide, created 10 baked varietals for Be, including seaweed bread, cheese bread and “Corinthe” bread with raisins. Meanwhile, Ducasse selected more than 350 grocery items and created elaborate sandwiches and ready-made dishes to eat in or take home. But don’t ask for a ham-and-cheese. Think candied tomatoes, basil and sardines on olive bread. “We offer new convenient ways to eat, adapted to our urban environment,” Ducasse says.
Be’s interior also plays the traditional off the inventive. Oak shelves and floors bring the city’s old-fashioned grocery stores to mind, while gleaming steel lends a futuristic edge. Both elements are courtesy of Patrick Jouin, a former disciple of Philippe Starck, who designed the shop.
The formula seems to be working — on a recent afternoon, customers at the shop included schoolboys as well as serious gourmets, who stop in to pick up lunch.
Meanwhile, Ducasse is on the move elsewhere in the city. He just refurbished Aux Lyonnais, in the second arrondissement, with partner Thierry De La Brosse and 25-year-old chef Christophe Saintagne. Lyon-style cooking is the focus of the menu at the famous bistro, opened in 1890, and includes all manner of charcuterie, even pig’s head sausage.
But for those who prefer to roll up their sleeves and make like the master, Ducasse has also opened a cooking school in Argenteuil, just outside Paris. For $320 for a day-long session, students learn all about Mediterranean cooking or how to create a multiethnic meal. A small price to pay for a lifetime of Ducasse sandwiches.