Every travel enthusiast has, at least once, dreamt of dining in a charming Parisian restaurant, perhaps overlooking the Seine or with a view of the city at sunset.
Ratatouille, with its splendid adventures of Remy and Linguini, has allowed us to imagine what it would be like to taste a delicious ratatouille in one of those restaurants with such ancient and enchanting atmospheres. But what inspired the Pixar artists to recreate those typical atmospheres of the French capital?
Well, as always happens in these cases, the artists from the team traveled to the splendid city of Paris and explored it, trying to capture the sensations and impressions that were later conveyed in the film. Among their extensive research work, they also had the task of trying out various typical Parisian restaurants and cafes, some of which were very ancient, with the clear intention of capturing their sensations and atmospheres. I have done some research and managed to discover 5 restaurants they visited, which I have decided to share with you in today’s article, in case you feel like planning a future trip to Paris!
Get ready, French cuisine awaits us!
1 – Le Procope
Among the visited places, one could certainly not miss what is considered, to this day, the oldest and most prestigious café in Paris. If you find yourself in the French capital, you absolutely cannot miss the opportunity to visit it.
Stepping through the doors of Le Procope, as the story goes, you will feel like taking a journey back in time to when this famous café was frequented by intellectuals, writers, and artists of the caliber of Voltaire, Moliere, Balzac, Rousseau, and Diderot.
Le Procope is no longer just a café, but a true restaurant where you have the chance to taste many typical specialties, such as coq au vin, veal kidney with purple mustard, or artisanal ice cream. This ancient café is located in the heart of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood and was inaugurated in the distant year of 1686 by the Italian immigrant of Sicilian origin (specifically Aci Trezza) Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli. At that time, coffee was a highly sought-after and exotic beverage, and what Monsieur Procopio offered was the high quality of his coffees, which began to attract more and more intellectuals and wealthy people of the period. Its fame grew over time, thanks also to its proximity to the Comédie-Française, one of the most renowned theaters in Paris.
Among luxurious carpets, red walls, and crystal chandeliers, even today, despite being completely renovated in the 1980s, it gives an idea of how it must have been centuries ago when it was a meeting place for illustrious minds. During the Enlightenment period, many thinkers and philosophers used to gather here in a private room, while during the French Revolution, it became a meeting place for the most radical voices of the revolution, such as Robespierre. Finally, it is said that even Napoleon used to frequent this café, to the extent that what is claimed to be one of his hats is displayed in a showcase at the café’s entrance!
In short, the Pixar artists could not have started from a better and more renowned place to capture the splendid atmospheres of Parisian establishments!
2 – La Tour d’Argent
If Le Procope is one of the oldest cafes in Paris, the restaurant La Tour d’Argent is certainly not to be outdone because, according to what is told on their official website, its history is said to have begun as far back as 1582!
It is located in a truly strategic area, with a panoramic view of the Seine and Notre Dame Cathedral, making it a place worth visiting (while keeping in mind that your wallet will be a bit lighter). La Tour d’Argent is a Michelin-starred restaurant, and one of the most famous specialties prepared by its chef is canard au sang, which is a duck in its blood.
As for its long history, it is said that under the reign of Henry III, a certain Rourteau decided to open an elegant inn near the Château de la Tournelle, which was built with a stone reflecting silver hues, thus giving the name to the establishment, La Tour d’Argent. According to the stories, its fame has only increased over the centuries, becoming the preferred place for refined dinners for nobles and royalty. From Henry IV to Cardinal Richelieu, passing through counts, duchesses, emperors, and the Tsar of Russia, many important figures have passed through and dined at La Tour d’Argent. It is also said to have been one of Baudelaire’s beloved and frequented places.
The café is currently owned by the Terrail family, who acquired it in 1911. Throughout the 20th century, it underwent renovations, and its structure overlooking the Seine and Notre Dame Cathedral was revolutionized. Despite this, the enchanting atmospheres typical of places like this still pervade the air. It is precisely for this reason that the Pixar artists couldn’t help but draw inspiration from it!
3 – Helene Darroze’s Restaurants
Helene Darroze is one of the most famous chefs in France and Europe, and it appears that the Pixar artists drew inspiration from her and her story to create the character of Colette in Ratatouille!
To this day, she has three restaurants, two of which are in Paris: Marsan and Joia, and a third one, Connaught, in London. She has also been awarded three Michelin stars. To understand the history of her restaurants, particularly the ones in Paris, it is necessary to know her life story. Born in Mont de Marsan in southeastern France, the daughter of restaurateurs, at the age of 23, she began working for the renowned chef and entrepreneur Alain Ducasse at his restaurant Le Louis XV. Initially, with an economics degree, she handled administrative tasks. Later, she became Ducasse’s assistant and realized that cooking was her true passion. In 1999, she managed to open her first establishment in Paris, and since then, her rise has been constant. In 2015, she was chosen as a judge for the French edition of Top Chef, and in the same year, she received the award for Best Female Chef from The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. She was also bestowed the title of Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honor, one of France’s most prestigious honors. If you find yourself in Paris, visiting one of her two restaurants can be a must, especially considering that she was the inspiration behind the character of Colette!
4 – Taillevent
Taillevent is another well-known and famous Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris, founded in 1946 by André Vrinat.
The name Taillevent pays tribute to a renowned French chef, Guillaume Tirel, also known as Taillevent, who lived in the 14th century and served numerous important French monarchs such as Philip VI and Charles V. He is also known for writing a famous culinary manual called Le Viandier. Throughout its history, this restaurant has earned three Michelin stars, and its tables offer classic French dishes depending on the season you visit. It is also known for having one of the largest wine selections in the world, with over 2,000 wines and spirits brought here from all over the globe. If you pay attention to the distinctive wines consumed in Ratatouille, you will realize that visits to places like this may have greatly contributed to the creation of all the little details that enrich the film.
5 – Chez Michel
Another place visited by the Pixar artists is the bistro Chez Michel, a popular spot near the Saint Vincent de Paul church, just a stone’s throw away from Gare du Nord. It was founded in 1939 by chef Michel Malapris and has changed hands three times over the years until it landed in the hands of Japanese chef Masahiro Kawai, also known as “Masa,” in 2015. The main cuisine is predominantly French, except for a few international dishes paying homage to the masters who inspired Masahiro during his training.
A Ratatouille for Remy – The French Laundry by Thomas Keller in Napa, California
That being said, we have reached the end of our little tour of Parisian restaurants and establishments that inspired the Pixar artists during their research for the film. However, a mention is warranted for The French Laundry in Napa, California, where the artists visited multiple times during the production of Ratatouille to conclude their research. It was here that the dishes featured in the film were conceived, most notably the famous baked Ratatouille, which is served to Anton Ego and prepared for the artists by Thomas Keller, one of the most renowned and award-winning American chefs, as well as the chef of the aforementioned restaurant. His establishment currently holds three Michelin stars and numerous other accolades, making it one of the top 50 restaurants in the world.
In short, for Ratatouille, our beloved artists drew inspiration from only the best!
Did you enjoy the article? Which of these aforementioned places would you like to visit? Let us know on our social channels!