- Interview -
the original version
Cyril Aouizerate is a philosopher and urbanist who creates places endowed with soul and meaning, such as the Mama Shelters, the MOB vegan restaurants of Brooklyn and Paris, as well as the MOB hotels that have just been set up in the flea market districts of Saint-Ouen and Lyon Confluence. A chat with a humanist regarded as a “missionary” of hospitality.
Do you see originality as the result of a quest or instead as the fruit of a singular nature?
It is no coincidence that the term “originality” contains the word “origin”. Original people often have deep roots. They don’t manufacture their singularity, they embody it. Conversely, I think that seeking to be different at all costs is a very conformist attitude. I know that people find me original. As far as I’m concerned it’s not a posture I choose to adopt, but rather an expression of who I am, sincerely and authentically.
It does indeed seem that the more you move ahead, the more your projects draw closer to what you are deep down, intuitively…
Absolutely, and with me, intuition flows from a preliminary stage during which I deliberately draw nurture from reading and exhibitions, so as to immerse myself in a dynamic that enables me to rethink the world. I am determined not to just doze off. I regularly force myself to reflect and take a stance on current affairs and issues. The tough part is trying to look ten years ahead with our current mental software. Each of my projects then involves a writing phase, which enables me to take a good hard look at my wishes and to check whether the idea is feasible.
Are you optimistic about the world?
I think there are as many reasons to be depressed as there are to be delighted. I’m a pessimist engaged in an optimistic fight, which leads to a constant internal struggle. When I go to bed in the evening after listening to the news, my world vision is fairly somber, whereas in the morning sunlight, everything seems possible again. This doubtless stems from my childhood, when my father used to wake us up by opening the windows of our bedroom and encouraging us to look at the sky, to listen to the birds, to develop our awareness of the world around us.
How did you become a vegan? Is this also due to this determination to reflect on the key global issues?
Yes, I’m a child of south-western France brought up on duck meat and I gradually became a vegan out of love for my wife, although she never made me feel guilty or tried to dictate my behavior. I always strive to pursue my convictions to their ultimate conclusion, and in this respect, my personal path led me to apply them to my diet. Today, I love enabling people to discover this way of living that is dear to my heart in my MOB restaurants in Brooklyn and Paris, but I would never dream of trying to impose it on others.
From your standpoint, what is a hotel?
A place of life, a territory where everything is possible, a kind of dream-like republic. As far as I’m concerned, hotels enable me to express my utopian and intensely personal idea of hospitality, as I experienced it in the tiny Toulouse apartment of my childhood: always open, the constant scene of large and joyful family gatherings around the table, where the smell of food mingled with music and laughter. Indeed, even though our hotels are very different, I share with Michel Reybier certain profoundly humanistic values and the desire to create places where people feel good. And I harbor infinite respect for this man and his ardent passion that has led him to work with so many artisans, notably in creating La Réserve Paris – Hotel and Spa, a truly rare address.
Based on an interview by Michèle Wouters - Photos: © P.-E. Rastoin