Laurent Bonjour: L.A.’s Cheese Peddling French Cowboy
Laurent Bonjour is truly a character. This French cheese connoisseur can often be found at L.A. farmers markets standing in front of his mobile cheese shop, proudly displaying an array of fine cheeses and sharing his wealth of cheese knowledge with all who stop by.
Dubbed the “French Cowboy,” Bonjour will never be seen without his iconic black leather cowboy hat. I stopped by to chat with Bonjour at the Sunday afternoon Larchmont Village Farmers Market, and got some insight about French food, bacon, and how cheeses are like women.
Campus Circle: First, can you tell me about your nickname?
Laurent Bonjour: It’s my hat, [which I’ve had since] 2000. I wanted to buy a car, and at the time I was 30 something…I had never bought a new car in my life. I loved the Mustang, and I wanted a convertible. When I drove the car, I have the top down, I have the sun in my face…I was at Venice beach and saw this store with this hat, and it became my logo. Everyone recognizes me by my hat, and some people call me the French Cowboy. People will ask me where I am from, so I joke and tell them Paris, Texas.
CC: Where are you from really?
LB: Annecy, France.
CC: When did you first come out to the U.S.?
LB: I just came once in 1992 and I never went back. I had a big party before I left and my friends said, “Oh we’ll see you back in three months.” I only had two friends that said, “You go out and do what you need to do and we’ll come to see you,” and in fact, in 20 years they are the only two friends that have ever come to see me.
CC: What do you miss about France?
LB: I miss the countryside and the food. There you have more variety—horse meat, rabbit everywhere, many kinds of fish. Here it is chicken, chicken, chicken, chicken. I used to be a caterer for movie shoots, and at one point I could have written a book about 1,001 ways to cook chicken.
CC: Do you have a favorite restaurant here in L.A.?
LB: I am a dad for the last five years—a dad of two kids—and when you are a dad you don’t have time to go out. The place I like best though is called Taix; it has very basic French food. Taix is one of the oldest French restaurants in town, and you can find rabbit, orange duck and beef bourguignon. Food that is very typical from France.
CC: How did your cheese truck get its start?
LB: I got started because I was working at a cheese store – I don’t remember the name, but I was not very happy – and I went back to France after a long time, and I went to the farmers markets. I saw cheese trucks and thought I could sell cheese here at farmers markets from a truck, and since 2005 I’ve been doing that.
CC: I see you have dressings here too.
LB: This is my own line of dressings. The bacon and onion, I dreamt about it and I woke up in the morning and I said I have to do it, so I went to the store and I bought some bacon and went to my kitchen. It took me a few days to find the right balance but I got it. Do you want to taste it?
CC: Yes please! [Pause for a moment of heaven.] Oh my god I want to put that on everything. That is delicious. What about your cheese? Do you have a favorite?
LB: Personally, it is very hard for me because if you are in the cheese business, you love all the cheeses. You are going to love some more than the other others, but you love all the cheeses. It’s like girls you are going out with. Sometimes you want a blonde or a brunette or a redhead…it depends on your mood. For cheese, sometimes I’m in the mood for salty or pungent or sharp…it depends on the mood.
To learn how to find Laurent Bonjour at his truck, The Cheese Corner, click here for a full listing of his weekly farmers market schedule.