Every single Sunday for the past 35 years, Jim Haynes opens his apartment for dinner. For each dinner, there’s a different friend of Jim’s who prepares a feast for many strangers to come and enjoy. My brother and I were invited last week to the Thanksgiving dinner by my mother’s friend. Considering we’re in Paris and couldn’t make it home for Thanksgiving – we weren’t going to pass it up!
I use the term “invited” very loosely because you don’t actually have to be invited. All you have to do is email Jim through his website and tell him that you’ll be joining the Sunday soiree. Anyone can show up and pay as little or as much as they liked (a simple donation) and meet a bunch of people, mostly from America, over wine/beer and a good dinner.
Jim greets all his guests at the door (and NEVER forgets your name) and is quick to introduce his guests to one another. I met a bunch of people and soon realized that everyone there knew no one. I met a girl who is also pursuing a masters degree and she gave me a list of places to check out in Paris. She was very interesting to talk to. I also met someone who lives a couple blocks away from me in Paris AND America.
The dinner was delicious and was exactly what would have been served at an American table on Thanksgiving. Once I was satisfied with the delightful holiday meal and a couple glasses of wine, I was able to talk to anyone. Moreover, I actually wanted to talk to everyone. Everyone there seemed so interesting and seemed to have so much to offer, whether it was advice, knowledge, laughs, etc. Not to mention, it felt so good to be able to talk english and know that the other person understood every word I was saying.
I didn’t realize until halfway through the dinner that Jim Haynes’ Sunday soirees are very famous! He never places advertisements, as his dinners remain word-of-mouth affairs, but they have been featured on America’s National Public Radio, as well as in the International Herald Tribune, the Sunday Times, and other newspapers/magazines. Haynes’ atelier, which was once a sculpture studio, has amazing floor to ceiling windows, and the walls are lined with books written by him. There’s also interesting articles and pictures framed on the walls. One picture is of Jim walking in a fashion show, and as the curious fashion student I am, I asked him what it was for and he said he was in a Comme de Garçon fashion show! After I told him how interested I was in fashion shows/events, he told me he was the first to film a fashion show in Paris. THE FIRST. I felt star-struck and wanted to know so much more about him.
About Jim Haynes
Jim Haynes, now 81, was born in Louisiana in 1933. In 1956, his military service brought him to Scotland and he decided to stay there afterwards. He attended Edinburgh University and, among other writing and musical activities, helped in the foundation of the Traverse Theatre and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Later in life, he taught Media Studies and Sexual Politics for 30 years at the University of Paris. Over this time, he has held his open house dinners on Sunday in his atelier. The Guardian wrote, “Jim Haynes is the godfather of social networking” since he brings strangers together every week from all over the world.
His space, at Atelier A2, 83 Rue de la Tombe Issoire in Paris’ 14th Arrondissement is a subversive plan for world peace. But there he sits, on his stool by the kitchen counter, wearing a butcher’s apron with “JIM” written across it, ticking off names on the long list of people that have passed through his atelier.
If you’re visiting Paris, I recommend you to go to one of the dinners to meet Jim and other people from all over the world. Please know that bookings are essential for Jim Haynes’ Sunday night dinners. Visit his website here to learn more about Jim Haynes, or to be added to the long list of names that have enjoyed his soirees!