My place was really laid-back, really laissez-faire. The idea was freedom of thought, movement. Also, people were talking about wine at the time. Whereas now it’s like, you go to a wine bar, and nobody talks about wine. - Kevin Blackwell
Originally from Mountain View, California, Kevin Blackwell moved to Paris in 1996, and quickly fell in with the city’s natural wine aficionados, despite possessing no formal background in wine. He opened a cyber café in 2000, only for it to founder in the wake of 9/11 (and the subsequent drop in Paris tourism). Given Blackwell’s nascent love for natural wine, it was, he says, a “natural transition” to transform his erstwhile cyber café into the eccentric, homespun bistrot Autour d’Un Verre in 2003.
A self-taught cook and self-taught restaurateur, Blackwell’s no-frills approach embodied the anti-establishment ethos of natural wine in the early 2000s. Visitors to Autour d’Un Verre were typically welcomed by his dog or his cat. His bistrot was also known for its shrimp toast and its lively semi-annual wine tastings, which reliably drew the leading lights of the Roussillon natural wine scene, along with friends like Nicolas Carmarans and Axel Prüfer.
Check out the episode to find out why it’s useful to have a cat in a restaurant; why he only ever spoke French in his bistrot; and why Blackwell is “Mr. Southern Carbo.”