Gastronomy, Art, and Community Impact

Celebrating Six Years of Culinary Impact: A Conversation with Julien Beauhaire, Co-Director of Refettorio Paris

Nathanaël Djimbilth_Aeterno Praesenti Photography

In the heart of Paris, inside the iconic walls of the Madeleine church, a cultural initiative unfolds, seamlessly blending the realms of art and gastronomy together to bring hope and joy to those in need. 

Refettorio Paris, under the dedicated leadership of Julien Beauhaire, has become a beacon of light for the vulnerable, offering not just nourishment for the body but also a feast for the soul. In this exclusive conversation, Julien shares the captivating journey of Refettorio Paris over the past year, revealing the transformative power of collaborative efforts, the profound impact on the local community, and the inspiring tales of guests whose lives have been touched by the magic created within its walls.


  1. In the past year, Refettorio Paris has organized various events involving external artists, musicians, and chefs. Can you provide an overview of these initiatives and explain why involving the community has been crucial?
    Certainly, in 2023, Refettorio Paris continued its mission within the church of La Madeleine and beyond. Continuing the mission and pushing further excellence in service to those we welcome is the direction we set with Soizic Marceau, the co-director. Twice a week, we host a guest chef, often with stars and renowned names such as Michel Bras, the Ritz team around Eugénie Beziat and Jérôme Legras, Romain Meder, Boris Campanella from the Hôtel de Crillon, Manon Fleury, Guillaume Smagghe from the Hôtel Bulgari, Amaury Bouhours from the Hôtel Meurice, Alessandra Montagne, and many Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (MOF). Why? To allow our 80 guests to dream around a 5-course menu crafted with the help of our two chefs – Blandine Paris and Marine Beulaigue – and our apprentice – Ibrahima Diallo. Besides the plate, there is also the room: we have hosted numerous artists, starting with our founder, JR, but also the violinist Gautier Capuçon, the magician Gus, dancers from Damien Jalet’s troupe, the Chamber Orchestra of Paris, and many classical, jazz, and pop musicians. Twice a week, beauty and goodness come together even more concretely: first with afternoon tea around workshops such as initiations to pictorial art, theater, and music, especially for children, also with off-site visits to the major museums and theaters in Paris. The meeting between the world of academic art and that of gastronomy finally takes place in the kitchens with the creation of dedicated menus linked to artistic visits: Mark Rothko menus, menus according to the continent exhibited at the Musée du Quai Branly, medieval menus with the Conciergerie museum…


  2. What does Refettorio Paris mean to the local community, and why has it generated such enthusiastic community participation? How do you foresee Refettorio Paris evolving within the community in the future?
    The impact of Refettorio Paris’s actions is manifold: on our guests, volunteers, guest chefs, and partners.It’s a joy to see that our mission to nourish guests extends beyond the body to the mind. Finally recognized in their dignity, their daily expressions of gratitude are heartwarming.The volunteers, nearly 600 active in 2023 – without whom we could not fulfill our mission – are increasing in number and trained in cooking, service, and welcoming people in precarious situations. Our manager, Mathilde Besson-Léaud, pays close attention to them.

    The guest chefs happily engage in the challenge of preparing a 5-course menu in just 3 hours for 80 people, without knowing the ingredients in advance!

    Finally, our partners, whether food producers, food banks, or patron partners, show unprecedented and loyal generosity. Not content with donating products or money, they also offer their time by participating in the service!

    Tomorrow, faced with the increasing number of people in precarious situations – homeless, in exile, students – we must continue our unconditional welcome with ever higher service standards (premium). Women and children already constitute a significant portion of Refettorio Paris’s guests – almost 50% – and they need to be safeguarded and prioritized: dedicated workshops during tea times, a playful tour of the kitchens, small souvenir gifts…


  3. How have these diverse activities contributed to increasing the impact of the project?
    JR regularly tells us that, no matter what happens, we must make the guests of Refettorio Paris dream: through gourmet cuisine, premium service like in a gastronomic restaurant, guest chefs, and attention to aesthetics and art.And not a night goes by without guests leaving in awe. Men have been able to reconnect with their children, especially for dinner. Children celebrate their birthdays. A woman regains the dignity and confidence needed to enter a beauty contest. Guests discover or rediscover museums and artists. A guest starts a gospel in the presence of a famous violinist invited that evening. A man organizes a festive dinner to celebrate the end of his homelessness and his fixed accommodation. Teenagers eat vegetables for the first time in their lives… 
  4. Considering the success and positive impact of the initiatives at Refettorio Paris, how do you envision the future and the continued growth of the project, and what message would you like to share with those who support and engage with Refettorio Paris?
    Today, Refettorio Paris, under the guidance of the partnership manager, Maud Lecuyer, collaborates with nearly 500 solidarity associations that daily direct their beneficiaries to dinner. Tomorrow, we will continue to provide dedicated and privileged hospitality to women and children, who remain the most vulnerable audience.We will also venture beyond our walls by organizing shared dinners: Refettorio Paris hosted by a Parisian restaurant that offers its service and setting to our guests and the entire team for an evening. Our model is open source and often inspires replication. Let it be! The entire team, starting with our presidents, Jean-François Rial and Marc Berrebi, is ready to advise and assist in the launch of new Refettorios in France… and beyond!