T Magazine: The Father-Son Duo Defining Parisian Tastes

This past August, Jean Touitou, the founder of the influential Parisian clothing label A.P.C., and his son, Pierre, a chef, cooked a feast together for family and friends in Jean’s new holiday compound on Pantelleria, the craggy, volcanic Italian island between Sicily and Tunisia. They followed a recipe from Jean’s Tunisian mother, Odette, for molokhia: a meat stew made with a leaf of the same name that gives the dish a dark, viscous quality that Jean humorously compares to an “oil slick.” Father and son had served up the same dish just a few weeks earlier at Pierre’s Parisian establishment Déviant, a buzzy, marble- and terrazzo-clad natural-wine bar in the lively 10th arrondissement. On that occasion, they slightly tweaked the recipe to make it more crowd-friendly: “We made it look sexier by serving it with bread and a little bit of couscous infused with saffron,” says Jean.

Jean doesn’t usually accompany Pierre in his kitchen, but this was a special evening that celebrated Tunisian food — recipes the family has cooked for generations. Jean, now 67, moved to Paris from Tunisia when he was seven. “I loved it,” he says of spending time behind the burners at Déviant, “It’s like being on stage and you’re not afraid of singing out of tune.” The duo has an easy dynamic, and while Jean gives Pierre the space to find his own expression, he is visibly proud. “I was stuck to the ceiling with happiness,” he says of working side-by-side with his son.

At just 25 years old, Pierre has already carved a foothold on the food scene in Paris. He got his start in his teens, as an apprentice in Alain Ducasse’s kitchen at the Plaza Athénée, and is now the co-owner of Déviant as well as its original sister restaurant, Vivant, a charming, 19-seat neo-bistro currently under renovation, located just four doors down. Pierre came to Vivant first, as the chef, in 2016 (he bought in as a partner six months ago) and it’s there, in the tiny kitchen with just two hot plates and a broken oven, that he has made a name for himself. He is doggedly faithful to serving the highest quality seasonal fare, sometimes with a Tunisian twist, like his Thon à la Tunisienne, sustainably fished tuna served with an olive and basil mayonnaise.

Produce first is how the Touitous have always approached the ritual of eating at home. Since 2003, Jean has lived in a light-filled modern apartment with cherry-wood paneling in Paris’s well-heeled Sixth arrondissement, just a short walk from the A.P.C. head office. Before he moved out on his own, Pierre split his time between his father and his mother, Agnes Chemetoff, and home cooking was all about top-quality ingredients. “It could be simple, but it had to be good,” Pierre says of his culinary upbringing. He has also succumbed to his father’s predilection for cooking with vinegar — “You need at least five vinegars in your pantry,” Jean insists — and the family’s preference for fuss-free desserts. “We never baked, but there was always a basket of fruit or a really good quality chocolate,” says Pierre.

While Jean is well known for his irreverent, teasing nature, Pierre is more ruminative. The same quality is reflected in the way he dresses; though he never considered a career in fashion, he has an assured sense of personal style. Most days, he’s sharply dressed in a Brooks Brothers button-down shirt, white cotton painter’s pants and well-worn suede cowboy boots from the Camargue-based shoe brand La Botte Gardiane. Two pens sit permanently in his shirt pocket. The whole look, he admits, is something of a uniform: “Everything is either blue, white or striped.”

While he doesn’t wear a lot of A.P.C. — the brand’s slim-fitting shirts don’t accommodate his 6-feet tall, broad-shouldered frame — he has pulled from his father’s label an appreciation for a wardrobe with easy building blocks. “My love of chambray shirts and button-down collars didn’t come from nowhere,” he admits. Jean’s approach to most other things, including playing the guitar — which both generations enjoy — seems a little more freewheeling. “The only difference is that I know the name of the chords, and he doesn’t,” Pierre says. “It’s like when I’m cooking,” says Jean.

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