It is on the Kennedy Corniche, a spectacular boulevard with a stunning view over the Mediterranean Sea and its islands, that our visit to Marseille begins. And, more particularly, in one of its apartments, a space tucked into a building that rises from the front line of properties, the legacy of a property building programme in the 1970s. This story is the starting point for Christophe Juville. A successful entrepreneur who heads up the Spok franchise as well as the Parisian dining cellar, Lolo, and the Adam cider brand – no less – this native of Marseille set about “sublimating the very particular style of the buildings of that era with the unobstructed view of the sea”. And all this in a highly personal style. Raw, minimalist, architectural. One of his main inspirations. In this concrete box encircled by smoked mirrors that “offers the opportunity to contemplate the view from any perspective”, the Carrara marble and white carpet on the floor are blank canvases that allow the potential of designer pieces and art, selected with great care by their owner, to express themselves to the full. The Lolo kitchen table, for example. A sculptural creation by the Atelier Calcaire, co-founded by the prolific self-taught chef with his restaurant architect and now partner, Jérémy Chaillou. The nerve centre of an interior where we like to meet up with family or friends, basking in the warm and generous light of a city that “one doesn’t live in, but that one falls in love with”.
I attach a lot of importance to architecture. In my opinion, it can have a real impact on our daily lives.
Christophe, can you introduce yourself?
I am from Marseille and live between Paris and Marseille. It’s what gives me my equilibrium. I am also a 45-year-old entrepreneur, father of two children, Matteo and Lilijane, whom I love above all. I founded Spok in 2005. Spok is a franchise network which today has around 40 restaurants in France. I modestly wanted to offer an alternative to the fast food of 15 years ago through real cooking, based on fine products and available immediately for all those on a lunch break in the middle of their day who want to eat well. Spok has enjoyed exponential growth over the past three years, with nearly 10 openings per year and many very exciting projects. In 2019, I co-founded Lolo with my friend and partner Loïc Minel. It is a dining cellar in the heart of the 9th arrondissement in Paris. We serve the cleanest wines possible, as well as incredible dishes in terms of aesthetics and flavours. All in a neighbourhood bar atmosphere. More recently, I created Atelier Calcaire with my architect Jérémy Chaillou. It’s a transversal solution to support and facilitate the creation of interior design projects for restaurateurs, hoteliers and retail. And finally, I have been working on the launch of a cider brand, Adam. It’s a product I love and one that deserves to be dusted off or reinvented. We have opted for offbeat brand positioning, in a solar Mediterranean ambiance.
Can you tell us about your background?
I am self-taught, I grew up in the northern districts of Marseille. I left school at the age of 15 and chose a sector in which I could develop and follow my own career path. I went to a hotel school, where I passed a certificate in cooking. I started out in managerial positions in various restaurants, then I opened my first restaurant at 24, and my second four years later. At 30, when I was already the father of two children, I lost everything due complications related to works that went wrong, among other things. I really hit rock bottom, but I bounced back in the weeks that followed and created Spok, combining the codes of traditional cooking, which I knew all about, with those of fast food, which I felt was about to take off. I have now proudly managed this network for 15 years. I never get tired of it! I always make sure that we have fun and enjoy ourselves and that customers feel it and come back.
Tell us about your education in ‘the beautiful’. How did your taste develop?
I come from a modest and unpretentious background. I did not receive any artistic education in my youth, but I always think I was very curious, very attentive to everything that was going on around me. I forged my eye and discovered the beautiful through encounters. I like to listen and observe. Not having any background in art history or even in general culture, I am thirsty to learn from others and from the world. At first, it was architects who awakened me to the world of design. Especially those who designed my first two restaurants, Jose Morales and Anhtu Ho. Stéphane Grunesein also played a decisive role. Then Roger Pailhas, whose gallery was just above my restaurant, educated me in contemporary art. I later discovered photography. A new world was opening up to me, and today it is probably the discipline that fascinates me the most. I have fun with my camera and take it everywhere with me.
You are an entrepreneur who is sensitive to various creative worlds – photography, gastronomy or even design. How do you cultivate this curiosity?
It certainly sounds like a cliché, but travel goes a long way in fuelling that curiosity. Even more cliché, my first trip to Japan was particularly decisive. So much inspiration and awakening to another type of sensitivity. And then there’s Paris. For me, Paris is one of the world’s capitals of gastronomy. That also goes for design. Every time I travel, I get my fill of inspiration. Surprisingly though, travel doesn’t inspire me to take pictures. Everything becomes a postcard cliché. It’s in Marseille that I can’t stop photographing everything, immortalising the light, the life, the sea.
Among designers and artists: whose work has had an influence on you and on your work?
By nature, the work of Jérémy, my architect. He designs my restaurants, so he has an impact on my daily life and my work. I have also been influenced by Rudy Ricciotti for a long time. I often listen to and read his interviews. I like his way of approaching his projects, so I think they have an influence on my way of approaching mine. I attach a lot of importance to architecture. In my opinion, it can have a real impact on our daily lives. And finally, my chefs Kevin (Spok) and Zach (Lolo) nourish me just as much. I consider them both as artists – cooking is an art!
Your various food establishments are distinguished by their carefully designed interior architecture. What importance do you give to your interior?
Whether for my home or for a professional project, I always immerse myself in the soul of the place. The idea is to build, to focus the project around its history in order to perpetuate it, but under a new light by reusing existing materials, bringing them back to life and sublimating them.
How did you think about it?
Corniche Kennedy is a mythical place which alone symbolises the special relationship between Marseille and its coastline and the Mediterranean Sea. Among them, the first line flat I live in is the legacy of a 1970s real estate program. The concept consists in sublimating the highly particular style of the flats of that period with the breathtaking panorama overlooking the sea. A set of smoked mirrors offers the opportunity to contemplate the view from any perspective. The concrete, left raw, gives the opposite effect to the Carrara marble on the floor and is warmed by a white carpet in the bedrooms. The flat is constantly bathed in a light that changes throughout the day. A perpetual change of scenery, a spectacle at all times.
Various designer pieces occupy your flat. How do you choose the creations that furnish it?
Most of the artists that you find in my flat are friends or at least people I have met. The Lolo table was designed by my partner Jérémy Chaillou and produced by Atelier Calcaire. It symbolises our collaboration, the first piece of the project. It is a real source of pride and is the focal point of this flat that embodies our way of life. We gather around it with family and friends to eat standing up. We are a very, very long way from sit-down dinners with placemats and candlesticks. Axel Chay is an artist from Marseille. He has a very interesting eye and his pieces alone furnish an entire room. I like his bold choices, the simplicity and the accuracy of his lines. France Bocognani and Caroline Bartoli from Atelier Franca are friends. Their ceramics are quite present in Marseille, they have a great deal of sensitivity to the material. Emmanuelle Roule is very talented and has recently arrived in Marseille for our greatest pleasure. She has opened a gallery here, or rather a place dedicated to ceramics, but apparently there are workshops and artists’ residencies to come. Caroline Denervaud. I don’t know her personally but I really like her work. It fills me with emotion. Nicolas Veidig-Favarel, his gallery owner (Double V Galerie) is a friend mine and a guarantee of confidence. Juliette Lambert is an illustrator / graphic designer who I find very inspiring with a very sensual approach, sometimes bordering on the erotic. Charlotte Lebon is a multifaceted artist. She needs no introduction. I was seduced by her approach and her relationship to drawing in general! I acquired this work above all for the originality of its size and the sensitivity of the character who appears in it. I’ve had it for 4 years and have never tired of it. I also have photographs by Olivier Amsellem and Vincent Desailly, both dear and very talented friends. Each in a different style. Their pictures raise questions and tell a story, a moment. Finally, you can see a Paulin armchair from Aussih, a classic that fits perfectly into my environment and some pieces from The Socialite Family (laughs) including this Carlotta side table that I adore!
What does this interior say about you?
My interior, but above all my view on the exterior. I believe that I could no longer live without the sea, the horizon, this light. I imagine that it says something about my need for freedom, to look into the distance. My interior is basically quite minimalist, which is quite like me, too. I like things to be square, controlled and organised. I need every detail to be thought out. This is reflected, for example, in the design of the kitchen with its subtly tinted mirrors that reflect the sea wherever you are. I also like this large Cadovius wall ‘unit’ which must be nearly the same age as me (laughs).
You are a native of Marseille. How would you define the Mediterranean lifestyle that makes it so unique?
Marseille is solar, I am not telling you anything new. You don’t live in Marseille, you fall in love with it. ‘You discover the value of things when you lose them.’ This saying takes on its full meaning whenever I leave Marseille. Its sun, its light and its horizons are all attractions that make it a city of the heart and attachment. When I come home, even before seeing Marseille, I see the hot orange sun reflecting on my surroundings. I know then that I am at home.
You who goes back and forth between Marseille and Paris, can you recommend a few places to us?
Some restaurant addresses in Paris: Lolo, of course, and all the Spoks for lunch (laughs), Pantobaguette, PAPI, Les enfants du marché, Deviant, Kiosk (the chef is a friend, she cooks divinely well and signed a menu this summer for Spok), Le Café de la Poste (because it’s downstairs from my house and I feel good there). And finally Jones and the Chambre noire. In Marseille: La Mercerie, the bar at La Relève and L’Abbaye, at Lulu, La Bonne Mère pizzeria, ALF at the Couvent Levat, Tuba, Le Glacier de la Corniche, La Mignonne for her itinerant ice cream that I hope you will come across! There are so many more. For shops in Paris: Brut, Center Commercial, Veja, Étude and Tom Greyhound for their uncompromising selection. In Marseille: Aussih, Jogging, Alan Joseph, Goudron, Lulli and L’Empereur!
Where will you be in the coming months?
In Japan! And more precisely in Beppu and in the South in general. I’m going there for a trip with my kids.
For you, The Socialite Family means?
Photography: Valerio Geraci – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily