Denis Legat and chef Stéphane Jégo at Ground Control des Champs

PARIS Denis Legat and chef Stéphane Jégo didn’t expect the police to turn up a week before the opening of their latest venue, Ground Control des Champs.

The pair has teamed up to bring one of Paris’ most exciting pop-up ventures to the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, after stints in a former mail sorting center in the 18th arrondissement, on the lower level of the Cité de la Mode in the 13th and in a railway-owned warehouse in the 12th, where Ground Control is still based.

To say the timing could be better is quite the understatement. The Parisian avenue has been the main scene of the “gilets jaunes” demonstrations, which started life as a protest against fuel taxes and have since grown to encompass a range of demands, held all over France in the last couple of weeks.

A police officer explained that the Galerie 26, the space where Ground Control des Champs is based, will be preventatively shut on Saturday, the day of the third demonstration planned on the Champs-Elysées.

As a result, the pop-up bar opening at number 26 on the avenue — first for friends and family on Thursday, then to the public on Dec. 11 — will have to close during its first weekend of existence.

Legat and Jégo don’t seem that shaken.

“We can’t back out now,” says Jégo, who supervised the whole food side of the project. “The ball is already rolling.”

The pair’s location choice was brazen in any case.

“It’s a real gamble,” sighs Legat, director of parent events company La Lune Rousse. “We’re clearly out of our comfort zone.”

The team heard of a free 16,145-square-foot space, including a 5,380-square-foot terrace, on the Champs-Elysées, in the soon-to-be-shut Galerie 26. Despite being one of Paris’ main tourist attractions, the shopping thoroughfare, home to brands including Louis Vuitton, Apple and Nike, isn’t known for its trendy nightlife.

“We thought that it could be fun to try to bring the concept to an area that is quite bland and ruled by brands, that has lost its Parisian origins in a way,” continues Legat. “Why not try to find some sort of authenticity? Maybe we’ll manage to bring Parisians back to the Champs-Elysées.”

Since its first venue in 2014, Ground Control specializes in temporary takeovers of vacant spaces all over Paris. The current opening at the Halle Charolais in the 12th arrondissement, a 64,580-square-foot space filled with bars, restaurants, boutiques and even a vegetable garden, is set to close at the end of 2019, when it will be transformed into housing.

The Ground Control des Champs, which boasts a restaurant, a bar, a coffee shop, a concept store and an art space all built in recycled materials, will be open for nine months, before the Galerie 26 closes for renovation.

“We hope that we’ll be able to attract a different population,” says Jégo, who will divide his time between the pop-up space and his restaurant L’Ami Jean on the Left Bank. “Tourists, but also an international clientele that wants to sample French gastronomy.”

Ground Control des Champs will serve charcuterie provided by Parisian butcher Aitana

Ground Control des Champs will serve charcuterie provided by Parisian butcher Aitana.  Julie Limont

Whereas previous iterations focused on street food, Ground Control des Champs prides itself on providing Michelin-standard cuisine for an affordable price. The set menu, created by Jégo and priced at 15 euros, features classic dishes from L’Ami Jean, such as Jégo’s signature salted caramel rice pudding, alongside bespoke creations.

The chef called in a number of local collaborators to provide produce both for the 80-seat restaurant and the deli counter, such as Julien Duboué of boulangerie Boulom or Aitana for charcuterie.

The drinks menu will offer beer by local brewery Gallia as well as a selection of natural wines, and the café will serve steaming cups of GramGram artisan coffee.

“For me, French gastronomy is also about sitting on a public bench and having a good conversation around good products,” says Jégo, who first met Legat through the Refugee Food Festival, which has a permanent booth at the existing Ground Control. “A good wine and a bit of humanity.”

“The real luxury nowadays is time,” adds Legat, who is planning on relaxing with his team on the terrace as soon as the sun comes out. “Slowing down, having a chat together, enjoying the moment. That’s what luxury is about for us.”

Let’s hope the “gilets jaunes” are on the same page.