“We’re open to anything. Come in and give it a shot,” said 22-year-old Christian Malécot — co-proprietor along with father Michel, owner of The French Gourmet — of the new bistro and bakery (formerly Papalulu’s), which recently opened at 2168 Avenida de la Playa in La Jolla Shores.
“Come on in and let us show you what we have — you’ll like it,” promised Teri Rider, who’s helping the Malécots rebrand their new restaurant with a fresh new color scheme, menu, décor and ambiance.
“We want to create this beach vibe of ‘No shirt, no shoes — no problem,’ ” Christian said, adding the new restaurant’s welcome mat is soon to include a “hungry hour” from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., where people can come in from the beach and give it a try.
A recent USD graduate with a double major in business and philosophy, Christian Malécot, who attended the French American International School in La Jolla, was anticipating doing marketing and sales for his father’s catering business. Fate, however, had other plans.
When a real-estate friend approached with the prospect of purchasing Papalulu’s — which Christian admitted “wasn’t on the radar” for him or his father — he said they nonetheless decided it was too good an opportunity to pass on.
“We decided to jump on it and try something new,” he said.
Thus, Voulez Vous was born. Combining Christian’s youthful vigor with his father’s wealth of knowledge from 33 years’ experience running The French Gourmet, the new restaurant venture holds great promise.
“This is a project we did together,” said Michel noting, paternalistically, that while Christian “has a lot to learn,” he is nonetheless “rising to the occasion.”
“I don’t want him to make the same mistakes that I made,” said Michel, who is hoping his business acumen will rub off on his son.
Michel said the recipe for success in the restaurant business doesn’t contain any “secret” ingredients.
Asked to distill it down, Michel replied, “Work really hard. Offer quality. Give people value. Be charitable to the community. Just try to not misrepresent what you are.”
Michel said The French Gourmet has always benefited from being a “casual” French restaurant not afraid to break the traditional mold.
Christian and Voulez Vous are carrying on that tradition.
“I’m going to do steak and seafood for dinner. That’s how we’re going to really be recognized,” he said.
Dinner will be added to the restaurant’s breakfast and lunch menus once the beer and wine license gets transferred over from Papalulu’s.
“That’s how I’ve decided to create the identity around the restaurant,” he said.
Rebranding the restaurant has extended all the way down to changing its color scheme inside and outside on its open-air courtyard, which has been repainted with a sprightly French Polynesian-themed mural by artist Virginia Ann Holt, who helped put the finishing touches on the Malécot’s vision for the new restaurant with her paint brush.
“It was nondescript,” Holt said of the existing color scheme, noting “bistro” to her connotes something international. The French, she added, have been everywhere in the world including Polynesia, and the color scheme was born.
“Red and yellow are colors that elicit hunger,” noted Christian. “Our idea was blending the two, the red on top fading into the orange and yellow. It just kind of came together.”
“The colors are spot on, not only pulling in the tropical influence, but bringing in the local area and also some of the influences from the menu,” said Rider. “What we’re trying to do is create a cohesive brand so that we can use it as a very recognizable element in local marketing and San Diego marketing.”
Christian said he’s trying to keep the new restaurant’s menu simple, while adding some bakery delights brought over daily from The French Gourmet.
“I’m hoping Voulez Vous will be an extension of French Gourmet under a different name to appeal to a different market,” he said, adding the new restaurant has French Gour-met’s famous eggs benedict.
Christian hopes soon to expand and customize the crêpes on his menu so customers can build their own.
Noting people these days are taking business lunches where they need to get in and out quickly, Christian said his lunch menu, including baguettes, paninis and salads, is perfectly suited to customers’ needs.
“Our dinner menu is going to be much more expansive,” he said, hinting it will be a hybrid of traditional French with a European flair and include some American favorites as well.
“It’s filling a void,” said Rider of Malécot’s emerging new restaurant brand. “There’s nothing else like it here. People are going to have more choices. I think they’ll be pleased.”
For more information about Voulez Vous Bistro and Boulangerie, call (858) 353-5255.