Soul Food: Gumbo Yaya Takes America’s Southern Flair to Paris
By Mitti Hicks
Just outside of Rue Charles Robin, in the 10th Arrondissement of Paris, is a restaurant dressed in America’s southern flair.
Outside of Gumbo Yaya Southern Kitchen, you will find picnic-style tables and condiments like Louisiana Hot Sauce and Aunt Jemima syrup that make up the tables’ centerpieces.
Inside, you’ll find what appears to be your favorite uncle throwing down on fried chicken, while your favorite auntie is putting her foot in the waffle mix, cornbread, and macaroni and cheese. As for the restaurant’s owner, Lionel Chauvel, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m originally from Benin, but I have aunties living in Macon, Georgia,” Chauvel tells Travel Noire. “I would visit them during the summers and on Sunday mornings we would eat chicken and waffles.”
Those summers in Macon is what inspired Chauvel to bring one of Black America’s favorite brunch items to Paris. “I want people here to experience the Sunday mornings I had,” he says jokingly.
Gumbo Yaya opened in September of 2015 and the menu features chicken and waffles, a chicken and waffle burger, sweet tea lemonade, kool-aid, pecan-pie, and more. There are even options for vegans.
“I found out about chicken and waffles on Instagram so me and my friends decided to try this American dish here,” says 24-year-old Melody Dacalor, a patron at the restaurant. “Surprisingly, we actually like it.”
Seating is limited and the wait-times can surpass an hour, so it’s best to get there early. Gumbo Yaya , located at 3 Rue Charles Robin, is open Monday through Friday from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., and in the evenings again from 7:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. On Saturday, the restaurant is open in the evenings only from 7:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m., and closed Sundays.
“I had no idea this restaurant would be so popular so I do plan to open a second and third location throughout Paris,” Chauvel says. “It brings me so much joy that people enjoy this American cuisine. It makes me feel proud of Black American food and my culture.”