The French gurus of gastronomic taste still do not rate American cuisine highly. The Gault-Millau guide, for example, finds the atmosphere at Joe Allen, one of the oldest of the American restaurants in Paris, "superb" and very nouillorquaise (the French way of writing "New Yorkese"). But the most that the guide book can say about the cooking is "not terrible-terrible."
A younger French clientele crowds into the Joe Allen restaurant in a neighborhood not far from the popular Georges Pompidou art center. Dressed casually but neatly, many fit what is known in Paris as Science-Po-a preppy style set by students, recent graduates or young professors at the Institute of Political Studies, the prestigious university-level school in Paris that graduated both President Francois Mitterrand and Premier Jacques Chirac.
The interest in American cuisine took a natural turn a year ago. Jean Pierre Bourbeillon, while working in market research in Boston for seven years, had conducted a study on the prospects for selling chocolate chip cookies in France. The results of his study impressed him so much that Bourbeillon returned to France with his New Zealand wife and opened the General Store, the first shop in Paris specializing in American foods.