An interview with Eric-Helen Louis, the president of the region’s leading gourmet caterer, Helen Traiteur.
Helen Traiteur has recently opened a new office in Cannes and is among the list of prefered suppliers at the Palais des Festivals. Why Cannes, after Monaco in 2012?
For three main reasons: to continue our commercial development in the French Riviera; to be closer to our customers; and to achieve a listing at the Palais des Festivals, a place we have worked closely with over the years (in addition to the Palais des Congrès of Nice, Monaco and Antibes-Juan-les-Pins). Arnaud Louis, my son and also the third generation of the family, is now in charge of our new office in Cannes.
How would you describe your cuisine?
50% of the gala menu and 90% of cocktail party menus change from one year to the next. We don’t just have one kitchen, but several because the expectations of our clients can be very different according to their nationality, style of event, the time of year and the atmosphere they are trying to create. Our cuisine is tied to the region and we use as much local produce as possible — it must be colourful and tasty!
Who are your clients?
We have 85% corporate and 15% private clients. Of course, the clientele is often Anglo-Saxon, French or Russia, but it’s extremely varied.
You have collaborated at events in the most beautiful parts of the region, like the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. What makes a venue?
Working with so many places of prestige and having meaningful relationships with the venues brings us a real happiness. It would be too hard to list my favourites! That said, we can also create a sumptuous reception in a tent or a shed — it’s the magic of the event that makes it.
How are you different from other caterers in the region?
The best thing would be to ask our clients! We listen to their needs and provide as much of a personalized service as we can. We are very committed to Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainable development. Having certifications such as the ISO9001 and — soon — ISO20121 has helped us establish a flawless organisation that is constantly challenging itself. The objective of our work is the satisfaction of our clients and the continuous improvement of our services.
What is your involvement in the Pacte National de la Lutte Contre le Gaspillage Alimentaire?
Our team shares many values and fighting against food waste is one of them. Until three years ago, we weren’t able to legally give away any of our excess. Myself, when I was the president of Traiteur de France and Guillaume Garot, deputy, signed the pact which put in motion an enormous evolution of legislation, and established a network of agreements in the region with charitable associations. If we are catering at an event and realise that the number of guests isn’t what was expected, our trained service staff will speak with the client and ask whether an association can be contacted for the surplus. We’ll then prepare and load a vehicle with the food — the association only has to come and collect it. By 2016, we gave away more than 600 meals and we’re already at 540 for 2017. It’s really something we’re very proud of.