Saturday, 6 February 2010

What Happened to la Moutarde Bornibus?

Discovering the home of a mustard factory in Paris is amusing but not surprising. One hundred years ago the city was home to many similar institutions, with Parisians producing a variety of things that ranged from paper to cars. Today the smoke and odours have disappeared but several traces of this industrial past, such as this factory in Belleville, remain.

At first it is difficult to see that there was ever a factory here at all. The only surviving clue is the lettering and medals displayed on the street-facing walls, but a reasonable assumption would be to conclude that this was perhaps company offices. In fact it was rare that a factory was allowed to be simply a factory in Paris, particularly this close to the centre. Perhaps for reasons of prestige, the plant which created the Bornibus condiments was hidden behind a traditional Haussmannian neo-classical facade.
The Bornibus label is not familiar to me, but the medals proudly displayed to the street show that these were multi award winning products (Paris 1867, Vienne 1873!). So what happened to the Bornibus products and recipes, and what happened to the factory itself?

After a quick search on the internet, I'm surprised to find that Bornibus condiments are still produced and distributed. There is a large range of products available, including salt-free and Kosher varieties! It would seem that at some point in the past, the family sold up, and production moved out of Paris. The current producers acquired the right to use the name and any original recipes, as well as the rights to use the history of the company for advertising purposes - "Bornibus products : quality since 1865. Le "Gastronome de l'Ile de France". Mustards, condiments and vinegars – 22 products, one of which, the famous extra strong mustard, had the honour of being mentioned by Alexandre Dumas in his dictionary of cooking".

The original Bornibus mustard.



Bornibus mustard today.

Was the factory knocked down as part of the extensive redevelopment of the surrounding area? Passing through the passageway of the more contemporary neighbouring building, I'm pleased to see that the factory is still there, tucked away behind the sheltering facade. It is not possible to enter the Bornibus building for a closer look, so I need to look elsewhere to see what purpose it serves today. This website provides a clue; "c'est une grande artiste française qui a achetée cette ancienne usine pour y faire une bien jolie maison/loft" (a well known French artist bought the factory and converted it into a house/loft).

The outside of the factory today.

Only a little more research is required to discover the identity of this artist - and more importantly, to find pictures of the inside of the factory!

The renovated interior of the Bornibus factory.

The artist (a big word - let's say rather a popular singer who is somewhat 'zen') bought the factory around 10 years ago and has converted the large volumes (300-400m²) into a huge house with swimming pool. She has seemingly left few of the original features and is also apparently happy to live in an environment that looks a little like the offices of a company dealing in plastic plants.

The story is a classic one. Production is externalised, rights and patents are bought and sold and industrial architecture becomes the playground of the rich. What is different though is what has been left behind; the proud display of medals and the proclamation that here was a product that was "la sante sur votre table". It's enough to tickle the nose of passing bloggers...

12 comments:

Christine H. said...

Certainly tickled my nose! Thanks for doing the research; I thoroughly enjoyed this post.

e said...

This was great, Adam. I laughed when I read your description of the changes the artist you mentioned made...

Your research is wonderful.

D.D. said...

Thanks for showing a piece of Paris every time. I really enjoy your post. :)

Tim said...

I also like the way you stopped short of giving the singer's name away... although I have a feeling it begins with a "Z"! What I would give for her to appear on Taratata and sing a duet with "Zizou"... just to hear the presenter introduce the one-off double act!

Excellent piece as ever!

Peter said...

I have also a a "Z" guess for the singer. Maybe even a double Z?

You are really incredible in your resarch! Impressed as usual!

designslinger.com said...

Adam said, "what has been left behind"
Indeed Z.
What??!!

Cergie said...

Encore une belle enquête Adam, tu n'es pas un bloggueur ordinaire qu'on trouve aprtout en supermarché comme la moutarde Amora.
De la moutarde il y en a encore fabriquée en Allemagne par exemple à Düsseldorf :

http://pattesdechat.blogspot.com/2009/01/la-moutarde-de-dsseldorf.html

ou à Montjoie devenue Monschau :

http://www.mediardenne.be/component/article/272/montjoie-?-monschau---declinaison-romantique-aux-marches-de-l-est.html

http://www.globus.ch/fr/delicatessa/producteurs-produits/moutarderie-de-montjoie.html

Les produits régionaux ne sont pas seulement alimentaires, ce sont aussi des produits manufacturés comme des verres ou des assiettes mais à présent tout est uniformisé.

Cergie said...

Une belle récupération des locaux dans le respect du passé ; même si cela est au profit d'une seule personne...

Starman said...

I don't blame her for using plastic plants. Since I am the world's worst "jardinier" and have killed more than my fair share of palnts, I fully understand plastic plants.

Adam said...

Cergie: Je pense que la moutarde est internationale - il y'en a <a href="http://www.colmansmustard.com/products.html>même en Angleterre</a>, où parfois c'est un espèce de farine qu'on melange soi même avec de l'eau!

Chocoralie said...

Quite interesting - I love discovering the history behing seemingly normal / ignored buildings. Thanks for a great article!

Par said...

I have actually stayed in that home/factory for a few days but never realized just how heralded the moutard was! Yes, the singers name had a "Z"

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