Go eat a cheeseburger
Another week, another book launch for Kirstie Clements, who turned being shown the door at Vogue Australia into a literary career.
Last Thursday in Sydney, the former Vogue editor officially launched her latest book Tongue in Chic, a “factional” follow-up to her best-selling The Vogue Factor memoir that was published in February. Yes February.
Anecdotes about the lengths to which some models allegedly go to stay “Paris thin” – such as filling up with orange juice-soaked tissues and not eating for days on location shoots – attracted a blitz of international publicity for The Vogue Factor, with co-editions since published in the UK and US. In April, The Independent in London asked ‘Is Kirstie Clements the fashion industry’s Bradley Manning?’ In May, Clements was flown to New York to appear on The View with Barbara Walters.
Set at a fictional magazine called ‘Chic‘ and written in the first person POV of the magazine’s editor, Tongue in Chic is a great read that includes a number of outrageous anecdotes about some of the antics Clements observed during her 25 year Vogue career – 13 of them as editor. Although the names have been changed and in some cases characters presented as composites, every anecdote is true, insists Clements.
Clements revisits the skinny model issue, but she also moves on to the weight obsession of the fashion pack in general and specifically, her own staff. Most of whom, she notes in a chapter called ‘Weighty Matters’, seem to be on a perpetual diet.
And so it was that one specific mention in the book really jumped out at us: reference to an item on the menu at Le Castiglione Café on Rue Saint-Honoré in the first arrondissement in Paris, one of the fashion pack’s favourite haunts during Paris fashion week.
A dish so carb and calorie-loaded, it seemed to defy modern fashion logic.
At one point in the ‘Showdown’ chapter, which discusses the biannual, four-city fashion roadshow for the ready-to-wear collections, Clements’ editor-in-chief character takes pity on her crestfallen fashion director “Marie” – who is clearly Clements’ former 2IC Naomi Smith – after the latter receives only a “standing” ticket for the very important Céline show.
Notes Clements – with what appears to be a swipe at the high profile former Harper’s Bazaar Australia fashion editor Christine Centenera, newly installed as fashion director at Vogue Australia – Marie only had a standing room ticket to Céline, which might mean she would not get in at all. Could she endure the humiliation of waiting outside, Clements asks? Especially if her “nemesis, Carla – who was less talented than Marie but boasted a huge social media profile and a large and expensive wardrobe” scored a seat?”
Aniticipating that Marie is about to be “enveloped in a fugue of self-loathing and hopelessness” – possibly not dissimilar to that which reportedly envelops the readers of magazines like Vogue every time they see images of stick thin models who fill up with orange juice-soaked tissues – Chic’s EIC offers to whisk Marie off to Le Castiglione for a special treat.
“‘Let’s skip the next show and have a Casti burger’ I suggested, throwing her a dietary lifeline. Our favourite restaurant on the rue Saint-Honoré served the Casti burger, a delicious Parisian creation. It was a hamburger that was smothered in the most delicious creamy sauce imaginable and came with fries. Ordering one during Fashion Week was quite possibly the most radical public statement an editor could make, apart from carrying a handbag that was a knockoff”.
What is a Casti burger exactly?
According to L’Express: an extra large bun with a 200g hamburger, covered with an onion-based house sauce, the exact recipe of which remains a closely guarded secret – but includes several layers of cheese and optional bacon – and fries.
Clements is on the money here. It seems the fashpack has virtually canonized the Casti.
Whether Coppola really did say that in an off-net interview or whether Le Castiglione has embellished the story, it’s hard to say.
But certainly, Le Castiglione’s name was dropped in Coppola’s Paris address book guide that was published in The New York Times’ T magazine cover story “Sofia’s Paris” in August 2006, to coincide with the release of her film Marie Antoinette. There is a scan of the story in the media mentions section of Le Castiglione’s website. Under the café’s name, the caption reads simply: “Noted for its cheeseburgers”.
Le Castiglione even lists The New York Times Casti burger mention as a timeline event on its Facebook page. And, amusingly, mentions both Coppola and the NYT on its menu, alongside the “incontournable” (incomparable) Casti burger.
In the ‘About’ section of Le Castiglione’s Facebook page, the café also notes: “Référencé dans le Sofia’s Adress Book comme étant le meilleur de la capitale, reste bouleversant!” Which translates to: “Mention in Sofia’s address book as being the best in the capital remains overwhelming!”.
Le Castiglione might want to update its FB page.
Although Vogue Italia lists Le Castiglione as a “favourite haunt” in Paris, without singling out the Casti, in January, British Vogue fashion editor Francesca Burns Tweeted to Dutch supermodel Lara Stone, “I’m going to Casti for a burger. Thinking of you ❤”. Stone retweeted it, adding “Well Jel!! YumYum”.
In May, Mr Porter style director Dan May Instagrammed a shot of his Casti noting, “Casti burger – well earnt!”.
In October, Manila-based handbag blogger Ingrid Chua-Go aka ‘The BagHag’, Instagrammed a shot of her Casti, together with the caption “I was “fed” the absolute best burger in #Paris in Le Castiglione 😉 <3”.
Also that month, Norwegian fashion blogger Irina Lakicevic Instagrammed a shot of her Casti, dubbing it “A legend in these parts”.
Mr Porter style director Dan May Instagrammed his, with the caption, “Casti burger – well earnt!”
In October 2011, Olivia Kim – currently the director of creative projects at Nordstrom, but at the time the vice president of creative at Opening Ceremony – noted to New York-based designer Prabal Gurung on Twitter: “I’m craving le casti burger. Sans cankles shop girl of course”.
Which may well have earned Gurung and Kim a little je ne sais quoi in their Casti sauce on the occasion of their next pilgrimage to Le Castiglione.
IMAGES: COVER IMAGE: MYBURGER.FR, CARTOONISED BY KUSOCARTOON.COM 'TONGUE IN CHIC' COVER VIA BOOKTOPIA 'TONGUE IN CHIC' ILLUSTRATION BY MEGAN HESS, VIA LADYMELBOURNE.COM.AU SCREEN CAPS: TWITTER/INSTAGRAM