What the Fudge
Celebrity collaborations and products have saturated the marketplace (perfume, cosmetics, clothing lines, accessories, hair care), but celebrity restaurants are not as prevalent as they used to be. Remember Madres (Jennifer Lopez), Nola (Britney Spears) and Geisha House (Ashton Kutcher and others)? It was very mid-2000s, like Ebola Hilton and Hyde Lounge.
I suspect the celebrity restaurant trend faded for several reasons: chefs are now celebrities in their own right, poorly run restaurants can be money pits, and the general sh-ttiness hit mid-range restaurants very hard. (Eva Longoria seems to have found success with Beso, though I’m sure partnering with controversial celebrity chef, Todd English, helped.)
But with the growing group of mocktresses jockeying for cookbooks and curated capsule collections and creative director positions, there’s only so much attention we can pay to the next line of reasonably priced handbags.
Now Jessica Biel, who has always dabbled in the business of good taste, is looking to open a children’s restaurant called Au Fudge. (Eater has confirmed a space has been leased.)
Let me say quickly that I don’t hate the concept. I like it when restaurants are explicitly family-friendly or not - I think it makes it easier on everyone.
So, what does Jessica Biel know about running a restaurant? Um, probably about as much as she knows about interior design. But when has that ever stopped an actress from enlightening us with her lifestyle expertise?
In terms of building a brand, Jessica has a lot going for her: she’s very pretty, is dressed by top designers, has great street style and is married to a pop star/actor (I know, I know). Now she just needs to decide what that brand will be.
The restaurant will find its audience with moms who use the same nannies, preschools, gymborees, playgrounds and private schools as Biel’s friends like Jennifer Garner. Tapping into that market will be part of Jessica’s strength, but what else should she do?
If I were on her team, I would cross foodie/cook/baker off the list. It’s too crowded (Gywneth, Blake, Drew etc.) and if you do comfort food, you get slammed for promoting unhealthy eating, but if you focus on organic, non-GMO, dairy-free, sugar-free, gluten-free options, you are alienating people who don’t want or can’t afford to feed their families that way. Best to hire a celebrity chef – he or she can do the cooking, and Jessica can (pretend) to do the eating.
She could take on the décor thing though, setting the right atmosphere for the “right” kind of family (I picture Eames elephants, Oeuf high chairs and owl-print wallpaper). She expressed an interest in this with her Domaine collaboration (click here for a refresher), and her husband tried his hand with HomeMint (which is currently on an “extended staycation”).
Interior design could be an excellent strategy for her – the restaurant will be photographed extensively, of course, and pieces could be duplicated for a home décor line; a little bit of Au Fudge could be in nurseries all over the world. Who would buy this? The same kind of people who would go to a restaurant just because it’s owned by a celebrity. Moms who look for design ideas from Petit Tresor, but don’t have $2,000 to spend on a white silk velvet glider. The kind of North American parent who calls a stroller a “pram.” In short, people who have Gwyneth Paltrow taste on a Tori Spelling budget. (Lainey: and the people who prefer black ribbon Christmas trees.)