If you find yourself in Paris after an entire night of partying and you're looking for the best place to gently soak up all of the alcohol, here's what you need to do: Head to the République area, lift up your head, take in a deep breath, and let your body be guided towards the delicious smells of cake coming out of the oven. Slowly but surely, it will lead you straight to Tatiana Lebotti's Le Stand, at the Marché des Enfants Rouges.
Between 12 PM and 2 PM, the small steel counter of the best vegetarian lunch in Paris is filled to the brim—but around 10 AM in the city's oldest market, there's always room at Tatiana's, even though she still has plenty of dishes to prepare for the rest of the day.
Today, she needs to unmold a huge homemade Spanish tortilla, allow a matcha-raspberry cake to rest, cook a large pumpkin lasagna, put together today's cheese plate, and prepare one of her specialties: the cheesecake-brownie, a hybrid cake that's out of this world.
Tatiana was born and bred for this: her father, Mr. Lebotti, who is originally from Naples, has owned an Italian restaurant a few feet away from her stand for many years. If you see her running towards her father's kitchen in the middle of lunch, it's because she needs another jar of ricotta to finish a recipe. Tatiana also has her mother's support: Tonia, from Sevilla, comes to help out every morning. Together, they chat away while peeling, simmering, and browning ingredients, making pasta, or putting the finishing touches on tarts. Together, they make a great team.
Tatiana's Le Stand is 100 percent vegetarian. "I don't use tofu or seitan. I want to cook vegetarian, but not 'annoying vegetarian.' I want all dishes to look 'normal,' so that people don't feel like they're depriving themselves. My approach is not based on dietary concerns," she explains. Tatiana is a firm vegetarian, but she is also very generous, and so is her cooking.
Case in point, in the soups she prepares every morning, she always adds a little je-ne-sais-quoi that makes all the difference. A little mint brings freshness to the zucchini soup, or a touch of nutmeg wakes up a red curry squash soup. In her "Bikini Friendly"—a chocolate brownie that contains zero fat (no oil, no butter, no milk, no cream)—her secret ingredient is zucchini, which functions as a butter substitute.
Le Stand has only been open for a year, but Tatiana's been cooking without meat for six years. It's become completely natural for her to adapt her home cooking to her vegetarian beliefs. It's even become a major weapon of seduction: When Action Bronson came to have a bite at Le Stand, she served him her very own veggie burger which he called, "Better than Dan Barber's" and he fell madly in love. With the burger and the chef.