Monday, March 18, 2013

A Random Moment With Gwyn Joy of Paradou

Gwyn Joy, bartender/manager at Paradou restaurant, illustrator

Here's "the more" from Gwyn Joy as promised. Read on to find out more about his art, foie gras, corporate branding, advice for brunching at Paradou, his doppelganger... and foie gras.

To think he didn't even want the job.

Gwyn Joy, bartender at Paradou restaurant, and manager I guess you could say.

How long have you been here?

7 years.

Do you remember your first day or first week here, what that was like?

Yeah, I actually wasn’t gonna stay 'cause I was taking the job as just a little interim job on the side. The owner, Vadim, who was here, was sitting in the back... all sorts of profanity, he was on the phone with somebody and it was the fastest interview I’d ever seen. He was like, “yeah you can start on Monday”. So I wasn’t really gonna stay and wasn’t really sure I wanted to do the job anyways. But the atmosphere here is fairly unique. Right now the command structure is the owner and then Abi and I, but most of the time it’s self-managing so it was very laissez-faire. So after I started it was the perfect job for me, I felt like neither here nor there.

On to the food. If you had to choose, it’s your last meal and it has to come off the menu…

You know, I’m not trying to stroke Kfir’s ego at all but the food is very consistent here. For me, If I was gonna get anything here I would take all 5 foie gras. We do 5 different kinds of foie gras so when you order all 5 you can start from the lightest to the fullest in flavor, intensity, et cetera, it’s very decadent. That’s what we’re known for.



So that would be your last meal.

Have you ever had the foie gras here?

No, not yet.

You gotta try it.

[Note: later that evening I had foie gras as part of my dinner]

The art on the [Paradou] website is by you, so tell me a little bit about your art, your illustrations.

Well that’s the thing, when I started here there wasn’t really any sort of corporate identity, so after about 5 years I put more of a vested interest in Paradou. We experienced explosive growth from 2001 to like eight, exponential growth. At 2008, we hit a peak and we slumped big time. By 2009, we were frantically trying to stop this slide downhill. It’s a lot of factors; it was the economy at the time, it was a lot of competition from new restaurants here so we were looking for different ways and one was to expand things to more of an identity, especially on the web… 

I’m an artist. I went to Parsons, I do fine art and I do graphic design as well. So working with the owner, Vadim, we put together, on the web, this look that we have of French, Provence and it ties through with our business card and it changes seasonally. Every season when you go to the website, a flash space pops up and you’re gonna get a seasonal… right now we’re in Valentine’s Day, it’s a little dated but spring’s coming up in the next couple of weeks from now and we do summer, Fourth of July… most of the graphic design is handled by Vadim or myself. We just redesigned our menus as well.

Where else can we find your work?

Online at the website and also I’m gonna have a show at the Red Alder Gallery down in the Financial District. That should open in a couple of weeks. They have a show coming down now. Basically a good friend of mine runs a hedge fund. Where they run their hedge fund, they have a huge gallery space. They have some great work up, they have Chuck Close, I think they have a Basquiat. They also have new, emerging artists, mostly based in Brooklyn that they bring through.

You’re at the bar. You meet people all the time. Who have you been told that you look like?

[laughs] I’m laughing because I don’t get a lot of people saying oh you look like someone but in the last month, twice, I got Michael J. Fox.

I can see that!

Oh, come on! I like Michael J. Fox but I don’t really wanna look like Michael J. Fox.

When he was young. Yes.

[more laughter.  More doppelganger denials]

As far as your art goes, have you ever been inspired by a bar patron, someone who’s come in here... to Paradou?

Not really because the series of paintings I’ve been working on I’ve been working on for many years. It’s very esoteric insofar as it’s kinda my own idea—it deals with asceticism and nature, going out alone in nature and why certain people feel they need to withdraw from society in order to find some hidden truth out there and whether they do or don’t and appropriating masks into that so it deals with different cultures… I had one of my bar patrons he’s a creative director for HBO and he’s given me a fairly good idea. He was like “you should really use some gold leaf” and I’ve always played with the idea of gold leaf so I’m gonna start using that. So I guess you could say, yes, he gave me the gold leaf [idea]. I’ll probably end up doing that at some point.

In any language, what is your favorite word, and why?

I’m not even sure if I have a favorite word, but uh, I think a fantastic word is soporific. My grandfather used it. My grandfather’s had some medical problems lately, and he was an author, he wrote a few books on the English language and he wrote his own little autobiography. I was reading that, and he used the word soporific and I loved it. Basically the word means something that’s very calming and lulls you to sleep and I think it’s great, it’s a fantastic word.

What’s the best piece of advice you think you’ve ever given someone who comes to Paradou?

I’d say get the foie gras. [laughter]

You really like that.

Yeah, it’s one of those things that we’re kinda known for but a lot of people don’t know about it. A lot of people do have problems with foie gras because they’re used to the French way but the way we do our foie gras is cruelty-free, it’s from the United States, there’s more strict guidelines.

So no life advice?

Let’s see… what would be another piece of advice? If you’re coming for brunch you gotta have a week now, two weeks in advance cause we’re getting crazy. Every brunch I’d say we, and not even exaggerating, every brunch, or every week rather, we turn at least two hundred and fifty people away over the phone. We’re a small restaurant and we book up 2 or 3 weeks in advance for large parties.

What’s the first thing you do once your shift is over?

It’s pretty boring now. I go home to my wife at this point but I love it. [laughs]

Why is that boring?

I’m saying it’s not for very interesting… I’d say have a drink first. Let’s put it that way. I think everyone in this industry would say that.

It’s a glimpse at who you are; you go home to your wife. That’s a good thing.

Yeah, that’s a good thing. It used to be a very different scenario.

Complete this statement. If my muse were an animal, it would be…

It’s funny because, today in fact, the painting I’m working on, and this is actually a painting I’m doing with my wife—even though she’s a dentist she’s also quite artistic—so we’re doing a 6-foot by 8-foot painting and the muse is a buffalo that I photographed at the Natural History Museum. It’s gonna be quite big, it’s the size of those two doors right there essentially and it’s gonna hang in our hallway, the little foyer in the apartment so I guess that animal right now would be a buffalo… the muse at the moment.

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