If ever there was a time to break into the food truck business in Paris, now would be that time. It’s an uptapped market. (Can someone say Empanadas?) There is currently only one gourmet food truck, Le Camion Qui Fume, owned by Kristin Frederick, a former Californian, serving up hamburgers and French fries to those who wait hours in lines with hundreds of starving people on a daily basis. Moving around Paris and keeping fans up to date via Twitter and their website, they have amassed an incredible following and reputation.
I had carefully planned to be at their “location of the day” when they began by checking their site earlier in the week. I had heard that if you didn’t get there early you would have to wait a long time. Well, they started taking orders at 11 and the line was already down the block! Apparently, “early” means, like camping out for rock concerts.
And so I waited. And waited. And waited. It was well over an hour before I was actually able to place my order with their order taker. I chose the Classic Burger and Frites, not wanting to add more time to the process by ordering the fancier, and certainly mouthwatering sounding, “Campaene”, with Gruyere, mushrooms and onions, or the “Bleu” with it’s blue cheese and caramelized onions. Keep it simple. It will be faster. I handed over my 10 euros and received my paper receipt with my number-39.
Well, 39 may have well been 390. I could have ordered whatever I wanted and the time wouldn’t have mattered.
The wind was blowing freezing cold air, and toes were frozen, but no one cared. We all just stood around and waited patiently for our number to be called. We were watching their every move, burgers on the grill, buttering the rolls to be toasted, piles of mushrooms and onions being loaded, cheese being melted, wondering if that was our order they were creating. We were mesmerized by all the cooking that was happening.
As happens when in a situations together, people began chatting with one another while waiting in line. The young man on his lunch hour (sorry- it’s going to be a three hour lunch today!) a film crew, there to film the them in action, and other food writers and tourists from around the globe. Everyone chatting and snapping photos of the flurry of activity that was occurring in such a small space. It was great fun.
And when, after an hour went by, we began cheering as each number was called and the customer was served up their steaming, hot burger and fries. Clearly, we were weak and giddy with hunger.
Finally, when they could take no more orders, and they had counted out the very last amount of remaining uncooked burgers, saving one, just in case of a horrid accident- losing a burger to the floor, as sometimes happens, they counted heads in line and cut it all off. That was all they could do, much to the chagrin of the crowds behind that last lucky patron.
My ticket ended up being one of the very last tickets. The very last orders of five tickets remained on the counter. And mine, it, was the third. When they called trente-neuf, I felt as though I had won the lottery! MY BURGER AND FRIES HAVE ARRIVED!
It was massive! A huge burger, larger than my hands could hold well, and yet, I devoured it. Each juicy bite was filled with cheese, mayonnaise, onions, tomato, lettuce and pickles. All of this sitting on a thick, buttery, perfectly toasted roll. My only disappointment was that it was cooked a little too bleu (rare) for my liking, the very center nearly raw. But no matter, the mayo and the cheese, coupled with my starvation, hid that fact and every last bite was consumed.
The shoestring French fries were salted, crisp and hot. They didn’t even need the packet of ketchup I put alongside. Flawlessly, fabulous frites! I could have eaten two orders had I not devoured my burger. The onion rings looked amazing as well and next time I go back, I will have those for certain. Along with a more “gourmand” burger. But I will be sure to show up a few hours earlier than their official “open” and maybe not have to wait quite as long. But if I do, it’s worth the wait.
Follow on Twitter – @LeCamionQuiFume
And check their website for locations and other news.