Person Behind The Place: Julien Hervet
December 7, 2021 - by Sandy Vo
Person Behind The Place:
Founder | L'Experience Paris
Born and raised in France, Julien Hervet packed his bags in 2003 and moved to the United States where he earned his MBA. After graduating, he took a leap into the tech industry and eventually got recruited by Microsoft, working a business development partner for the X-Box team. During this time, Hervet started importing wine from Europe for friends and family as a fun side activity. What started as a simple hobby quickly grew into a full-time entrepreneurial venture. In 2018, Hervet founded L’Experience Paris which has since grown to three locations in Bellevue, Mercer Island, Issaquah and - opening next year - a fourth location in Capitol Hill. L’Experience features 150 wines by the glass and various artisan pastries, offering a slice of Paris to the Greater Seattle area. Learn more about Hervet's passion for wine, what makes a great bottle, and where to find him in the Heart of Bellevue.
What does L’Experience Paris offer to the Downtown Bellevue community?
Wine in Europe is extremely affordable. In the U.S. you have multiple middlemen in-between the wine, causing the price to become expensive. Living in Europe, I could sit at a counter and get great wine for only $5 to $6. That’s something I want to bring: well-crafted affordable wine that people are going to enjoy without feeling like they are breaking the bank every time they open a bottle. While wine is more of an evening activity, L’Experience is a place where people can grab a coffee and the best croissant prepared by a team of French chefs in the morning, grab lunch at noon and then come back and enjoy a selection of 150 wines by the glass. We offer an authentic experience by using the most traditional artisan method from France.
How has the pandemic affected your business?
With the pandemic, people weren’t going out anymore or sitting in restaurants, so we slowed down our new offerings. Lately, we've been trying to get back into the groove. We recently released a new lunch menu and during Thanksgiving, while not a French tradition, we offered a selection of dishes including a Thanksgiving quiche and a wine pack. Our weekend crowd has picked up but during the weekdays, the attendance is much lower. We look forward to seeing people come back to work and give a bit more life to Bellevue.
In your opinion, what makes a bottle of wine great?
The taste of wine is always subjective. People often believe there is a fault in the wine when they don’t like it, but it’s not because the wine isn’t good. It just doesn’t match their taste profile. If it comes down to how it was produced, authenticity and sincerity make a good bottle of wine. When I say authenticity, I mean that the wine grew in the right environment and climate naturally instead of a lab or even worse - a factory. Sincerity is along the same lines. You want something that comes from nature and most of the wines we work with are all organic and biodynamic. We don’t add any other products and we make sure everything is well taken care of.
You once said in a 425 Magazine interview that “wine is an emotion in a bottle,” can you explain what you mean by that?
A single wine bottle can tell you how it was produced from beginning to end just by tasting it. We partner with men and women, most of whom have been “vignerons” for generations, who are growing the vines, making the wine, bringing it to market. Making wine is not a pastime or a hobby, it is a full-time devotion, 365 days a year to a craft perfected across centuries. They are the shepherd of flavors that nature naturally gives to the grapes. What we’re trying to convey is the 'terroir', a sense of place. It’s all those sensations and emotions that we want people to explore. It’s an experience like no other.
What is your latest item on the menu?
We have brought back Pierre Hermé's macarons due to the high demand and volume sold last year. According to renowned restaurants, Pierre is known as the world’s best pastry chef and chocolatier which is why we're honored he entrusted us with his chocolates this year. They are crafted in Alsace, eastern France and we're excited to see how people react to them.
What is your favorite part about working Downtown?
Pre-pandemic, it was the activities and the fact you could see the city blossoming and expanding. I can look out the window right now and see three new towers coming up. I also love that Downtown Bellevue is slowly becoming a foodie destination, where people can feel like they don't have to go to Seattle or San Francisco to get a great meal. The dynamic of Downtown Bellevue is unique. Hopefully we will bring the full energy back once the pandemic is no longer something to worry about.
Any favorite places to dine out?
I would say Monsoon is a place I enjoy going to. They have a combination of great food and a nice atmosphere. Like anyone, I love heading up to the 31st floor and dining at Ascend Prime Steak & Sushi. They have a beautiful view and an interesting concept.
Do you have any hidden gems you'd like to share?
For me, going to Meydenbauer Bay Park is relaxing. You get an even better view if you’re lucky enough to have a friend who owns or can rent a boat. I love the sight of Mt. Rainier from there, it’s a great place to relieve some stress.
Where do you see yourself and L'Experience in 10 years?
The pandemic has slowed us down, but our goal is to continue to expand and bring the experience to more places around the Greater Seattle area. When we took over the space in Bellevue, we knew we weren’t in the center but that’s about to change. This place is going to thrive even more when people come back. Bellevue is a French name, so it makes sense we stick around for a long time.
Follow L'Experience Paris on social to see the latest menu offerings.
Person Behind the Place is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.