THE B.I.A. STORY
Originally from Connecticut, BIA owner Craig Carlson first came to France as a student and instantly fell in love with the country. It was in Paris — thanks to the numerous art house cinemas — that Craig developed his love for film and decided to pursue it as a career. After attending USC film school in Los Angeles, Craig worked as a screenwriter and short filmmaker and then landed a job in Paris working on a TV show. During this time, the only thing Craig missed while living in Paris was a good ol’ American breakfast. Realizing the only thing the French knew of American cuisine was fast food, Craig became convinced that the time was right for an authentic American diner in Paris.
After nearly two years in the making, BIA finally opened its doors in January 2003 (BIA 2 opened in February 2006). Thanks to his friends in the film industry who came on as investors, Craig was able to bring together two of his loves under one roof – the cinema and diners. Some of BIA’s supporters include the director of the film “Runaway Jury”, (starring Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman), the writer of “Con Air”, a director of “Friends”, the director of “Invincible” (starring Mark Wahlberg) and French animators working at Dreamworks Studios in California. All of them can’t wait to find an excuse to come to Paris where they know a steamin’ stack of pancakes and a bottomless mug o’ joe are always waiting for them…
On Saturday, January 4th, 2003, the first Breakfast in America opened its doors during one of the heaviest snowfalls in Paris in years. We looked at it as a nice sign. Several customers braved the cold and came in for breakfast and steamin’ cups o’ joe. This month BIA celebrates 10 years! Stop in for daily specials and a few surprises!
FUSAC had the chance to get a few minutes of Craig’s time. Here is what he said:
What did/do you parents do ? Mom was an elementary school teacher and Dad was a working man who did dozens of odd jobs throughout the years to make ends meet.
Your favorite occupation? As a child, I wanted to be an astronomer and explore new worlds. Now, instead of dreaming of other worlds, I love exploring and immersing myself in other cultures here on Earth.
What is your favorite Patisserie? That’s an easy one : Pain au chocolat aux amandes ! Close second : Paris Brest.
Favorite hobby? Going to the old cinema houses in Paris to watch classic movies from the 30’s and 40’s.
Favorite film? 400 Blows, Harold & Maude and Shawshank Redemption
The French expression that makes you smile? C’est pas tes oignons !
What are you most proud of ? Having not lost my curiosity and love of life. To me, being blase or apathetic is the saddest way to live.
What is your chief characteristic ? I’ve been very fortunate in life to have always known what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be, even if that meant changing careers or moving to a new country.
Your favorite quote? From F. Scott Fitzgerald : « The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. » In the diner, you have to hold at least a dozen thoughts at the same time and still function !
Your personal fFavorite place to eat in Paris ? There are two : a small French restaurant in the 5th that serves only fondu and a great little Indian restaurant not far from Gare du Nord. Oh, and of course, my place for breakfast !
What are the most popular items at the diners? The burgers (Super BIA burger and Bacon Cheeseburger) and pancakes.
What is the oddest request a patron ever asked you ? One love-obsessed customer of the Latin pursuasion would not stop sending me e-mails asking for my waitress’s phone number even after I told him we never give out personal information on our employees !
Is there any food stuff you’d like to have on the menu but you can’t import ? I get a lot of requests for American favorites such as grits, key lime pie and ballpark-style hot dogs.