US potato-dish fan in France now raising money for Restos du Coeur

The American tourist’s passionate praise of a chain potato restaurant was retweeted worldwide and he has now prompted hundreds to give to charity – including the restaurant group itself

13 September 2021
A pile of fresh potatoes

The American tourist’s effusive praise of the French potato restaurant has attracted a viral Twitter storm and many donations for charity Restos du Coeur Pic: Titus Group / Shutterstock

By Hannah Thompson

An American Twitter user who made headlines last week for tweeting effusively about French restaurant chain La Pataterie has successfully taken advantage of his sudden fame to appeal for charity donations.

Steve Olson went viral on Twitter on September 6, when he waxed lyrical about the Arles branch of potato restaurant chain La Pataterie, calling it a "great experience", and “AMAZING”. 

He especially loved the Pom' au Four Savoyarde – a potato dish with ham and cheese – which he said was “gloriously baked”, and the “greatest potato ever made by human hands”. 

Read more: French restaurant reveals secret of US tourist’s 'best-ever potato'

He said: “Words cannot express my amazement,” and wrote: “There was a descending choir of angels...The angels were singing ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ by Serge Gainsbourg and Bardot.”

This prompted mixed reactions on Twitter. Some agreed with him, saying that the chain is a good example of low-cost French food and that ‘culinary heaven’ is not just for elitists. 

Others found his love of a less-than-gourmet, potato-focused restaurant rather more comical or even contemptible, and urged him to try better quality French food instead.

But now, Mr Olson, originally from Oakland, California, has successfully surfed the wave of his sudden Twitter fame to launch an appeal for donations to French food and restaurant charity Restos du Coeur.

On Friday, September 10, he tweeted: “Ok French friends, since we may have differences about restaurants (and potatoes) we all clearly love food, and feeding people. I just gave 100€ to @restosducoeur — who will stand with me?" posted Steve Olson, copying the link to the charity's donation page.

His post was an instant success, and was ‘Liked’ more than 20,000 times in less than 24 hours. At the time of writing, it had attracted 3,278 Retweets.

La Pataterie even responded to his post, announcing that the restaurant chain will offer five tons of potatoes to the charity association.

The comments responding to Steve Olson's tweet were mainly very supportive. The Consulate General of France in San Francisco even thanked Steve Olson on his Twitter account for his initiative. 

Patrice Douret, president of Restos du Cœur, told actu.fr that the charity was “very surprised by this gesture”, which he said was “very generous”. He said: “We thank Steve from the bottom of our hearts, as well as all those who gave us donations on this occasion.

“At the moment it is still too early to assess the impact of the campaign, but it is in any case welcome. We feel that the situation is still critical because of the health crisis.”

Restos du Coeur was founded by the late comedian and actor Coluche in 1985, to help the most disadvantaged, notably by providing them with free meals. It also helps them socially and economically. 

In 2019-2020, the charity distributed more than 136.5 million balanced meals to more than 875,000 people.

On a more commercial note, La Pataterie CEO Sébastien de Laporte has said that Mr Olson's tweets have opened the brand up to "20-to-40 year-olds", which represents a new demographic of clientele for the group.

He said that the publicity had “given energy" to the brand after the chain – like thousands of restaurants nationwide – was forced to close for months due to the health crisis.

As for the criticism some Twitter users piled on Mr Olsen for his culinary tastes, Mr de Laporte said that the restaurant was never aiming to be a fancy dining destination.

He said: "We don’t cater for big budgets. At La Pataterie, the average dining receipt is €20. I'm not trying to prove anything to anyone; we're not a gourmet restaurant!” 

Mr Olson has since jetted away from France, but left this potato-related Tweet as a goodbye.

It reads: “See you soon, my new French friends! Thank you for all the love. Eat all the potatoes for us!”

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French restaurant reveals secret of US tourist’s 'best-ever potato'

Five words that began a charity revolution in France

Restos du Coeur is more than food

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