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Co-founder of Café des Stagiaires, Thomas De Bruyne

Apr 13, 2018

My name is Thomas de Bruyne. I'm Belgian, 29, and on my 6th year here. I came in 2011 as a stagiaire (that's French for 'intern'), started my stagiaires adventures, working with stagiaires students. I'm one of the founders of Café des Stagiaires, Pain Chaud, and partly responsible for Found 158.

Cafe

My favorite part of the city is Xuhui. Favorite village in Shanghai. The lane houses on Xinle Lu, the smiles of neighbors, the smells of Chinese cuisine are a daily energy/happiness charger. It's where I live, walking distance to my office, above Constellation, Big Movie, Funka, Elevator, Donghu/Changle/Fumin... my life is full of hard decisions! I could live with a 1km leash attached to my bed.

Considering Café des Stagiaires and Pain Chaud are my “don’t get too drunk/don’t get too fat” offices, some of my favorite places include Constellation, for my favorite caipirinha in the world (try their "Phuket Holiday"). I prefer it to any other boring “speakeasy." Qing Mai Heaven on Jinxian Lu for street-food style Thai. Diner for their cheeseburger and mozza sticks. I've always been fan of Austin Hu’s healthy cooking. I miss my brunch at Madison. Nene for their expensive but amazing Duck Carbonara. RAW for Juan’s tasty cut of the day. Elevator for the my “how the f**k did I end up here." The music is great. The location is great. I have to admit I like it.

I like the Shanghai F&B scene for the never–ending openings (and closings) of new places, every single day. My latest crushes are Camden’s Bird which is great, and the Xixi guys just opened Below. Loving it. Another trap too close to home! My favorite thing that doesn't involve eating and drinking? Big Movie-ing.

I wonder sometimes if I could live here forever. I could. I won’t. I can’t leave right now. I don’t know where to go. I don’t want to go back to (slow) Europe right now. I am getting married this summer. I am still fixing past business mistakes. I want a dog. Is this a beer belly? I’m back at F45. I am lost. I love it. Dos anyone else know this feeling?

Thomas

I first came to Shanghai on an internship with my good friends/classmates/roommates/future business partners Benjamin and Max. We loved the city. We loved to party. We missed what we call the “European neighborhood bar feel." There were only overrated lounges and Chinese style bars at the time, so we decide to open our own spot with what we liked most. Chouffe, Pastis, pizza, old good beats and a friendly atmosphere. On November 11, 2011, we opened Le Café des Stagiaires, taking over a small shop under our house, on what would eventually become "the" Yongkang Lu.

CDS
The OG Cafes des Stags

The idea was simple: made by interns, run by interns, accessible for interns. We convinced hospitality schools (mostly in Switzerland) to send students for short operational internships, and our price strategy was to have a few, very accessible products (blond beer and pastis) to be welcoming for everyone… even underpaid stagaires. "Come as you are!" we thought. "Everyone is welcome and has a nice story to share."

We went back to Switzerland to grab our hospitality diplomas, and returned in 2012. Things already changed a lot: Yongkang Lu was becoming an overcrowded bar street. We knew we needed to ride the city, keep up with Shanghai's pace. My favorite aspect of the city, the everyday growth and change, is also my least favorite aspect.

We decide to open more Café des Stagiaires to 1) move part of the crowd, 2) host more customers, 3) cover more slots, from brunch to late night DJ parties, 4) cover more area. Shanghai in 2011, 2012, 2013, Bangkok 2015... We had side projects too. A restaurant called La Petanque, which we opened in 2013 and sold in 2015. We started a bakery with Chinese friends/ex-coworkers, Pain Chaud. We also opened a boutique hotel and restaurant in the south of France in 2016.

Thomas
Face into the wind, Thomas says, "like working in F&B in Shanghai."

But after over 5 years of some serious fun (and a little conflict), Yongkang Lu wasn't the cute little street it was, and the government finally put an end to it. The country is growing fast and adjustments/improvements need to happen. Losing our (favorite) little Café on YKL was painful, but we had to bounce back, so after brainstorming with Todd from Camel Group and Pier & Ivan from Xixi Bistro (all similarly enjoying shop closures), we decide to get together and create a new F&B hub in Shanghai. And so Found 158 was born.

The opening was epic. Our plan seemed to work better than expected. We are celebrating our 1 year anniversary this week down in the pit hole! Vive la Chouffe!

Thomas
Found 158's 1-year old CDS

We're bringing Café des Stagiaires to South East Asia's big cities. We'd like to have one nice shop per city, opening at a speed of one shop per year. Can't say anymore right now… wait and see and get ready!

Meanwhile, Pain Chaud is our big focus for Shanghai (and China) right now. Last summer we opened an upgraded version in Gubei, and a new one on Jianguo Lu is opening end of May. Every day, the whole team is working hard towards even more developments in Shanghai in the coming years.

Thomas

If I had any advice for new stagiaires coming to the city, it'd be help us "make intern application great again." Behave! Be respectful to everyone around you, they're what makes Shanghai what it is. And don’t forget, there’re no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met yet! (CDS motto, by the way)

Shanghai is a never-ending roller coaster. Between terror and euphoria - You have to keep moving and understand how to enjoy the ride without falling out of your seat - I’m still working on it.

***

The first anniversary of the Café des Stagiaires in Found 158 takes place all day Saturday this weekend.

VENUES MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE:

  • Bar Constellation (Xinle Lu)

    • Nightlife
    • Japanese
    • Bars
    • Address
      86 Xinle Lu, near Xiangyang Bei Lu
      新乐路86号, 近襄阳北路
    • Phone
      5404 0970

    Constellation was a "hidden gem," prized among expats for its finely conceived and exhaustive selection of cocktails -- but now everybody "knows about it" and it has "lost its charm" apparently. Take that for what you will. Basically everything ever mixed since the... Read more

  • Nene

    • Dining
    • Pizza
    • Italian
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • Address
      47 Yongfu Lu, near Fuxing Xi Lu
      永福路47弄, 近复兴西路
    • Phone
      6418 5055

    Nene is a quaint and cozy pizzeria specializing in Lazio-style pies with your garden variety of toppings like rocket, Parma ham, anchovies and the like. In addition to pizzas, the offer a selection of homemade pastas, imported Italian chartuterie and a list of... Read more

  • Qing Mai Heaven

    • Dining
    • Thai
    • South-East Asian
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • Address
      145 Jinxian Lu, near Maoming Lu
      进贤路145号, 近茂名南路
    • Phone
      6215 8491

    Shanghai definitely needs another no-frills Thai spot and Qing Mai happily takes on the role. This nook of a restaurant has four family-style round tables and its quaint decor fits in perfectly with the nuanced boulevard that Jinxian Lu has become. Read more

  • Big Movie

    • Shopping
    • Dvd
    • Book Shops
    • Address
      158 Xinle Lu, near Donghu Lu
      新乐路158号, 近东湖路
    • Phone
      5403 8736

    Truly excellent DVD store on Xinle Lu. Friendly staff who will test movies for you and usually flag stuff up if the quality is no good. It's large inside with a good mix of old and new films, Chinese and foreign, and lots of TV series. DVDs are all 12rmb a disc. Good... Read more

  • Pain Chaud (Xuhui)

    • Dining
    • Cafes
    • Bakeries
    • Address
      34 Yongkang Lu, near Xiangyang Nan Lu
      永康路31号, 近襄阳难路
    • Phone
      5456 5220

    Pain Chaud is the new brand identity for La Boulangerie, the bakery from the team behind Cafe des Stagiaires and Le... Read more

  • Diner

    • Dining
    • American
    • Xuhui
    • Address
      145 Wuyuan Lu, near Wulumuqi Zhong Lu
      五原路145号, 近乌鲁木齐中路
    • Phone
      6416 1678

    Shanghai scene chef Austin Hu, along with some Monkey Lounge types, have a spot where they serve nü diner food — contemporary revisions of classic American fat-ass cuisine. All given that contemporary twist with things like chipotle aoili, cured lemon aoili,... Read more

  • Raw

    • Dining
    • BBQ & Steaks
    • Spanish
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • $
    • Address
      2/F, 98 Yanping Lu, near Xinzha Lu
      延平路98号2楼, 近新闸路
    • Phone
      5175 9818

    Nice looking grill and bar on Yanping Lu, serving wood-cooked cuts of South American meats and some raw dishes like a Chilean Wagyu beef tartare, Icelandic codfish ceviche, and an "Egg at 63°". Food looks sharp, and you're probably paying 200-400rmb per person,... Read more

  • Elevator

    • Nightlife
    • Clubs
    • Design Standout
    • Address
      4/F, 218 Xinle Lu, near Donghu Lu
      新乐路218号4楼, 近东湖路
    • Phone

    Intimate nightclub in the busy Donghu Lu neighborhood, with good sound and lights, and house, disco, and techno by local and international DJs. Notably, they've also got ping pong tables and other daytime activities, plus a micro-restaurant. Drinks are mid-range and... Read more

  • Bird

    • Nightlife
    • Dining
    • Wine Bar
    • Address
      50 Wuyuan Lu, near Changshu Lu
      五原路50号, 近常熟路
    • Phone
      135 0172 6412

    An under-20 seater serving pan-world small, sharable fusion dishes from an ex-surgeon chef. Their wine guy will recommend some wines to go along with it. Camden, the host, also of Egg and next door's Read more

  • Below

    • Nightlife
    • Bars
    • Lounge
    • Address
      462 Changle Lu, near Shaanxi Nan Lu
      长乐路462号, 近陕西南路
    • Phone

    From the makers of Xixi Bistro (among others) and the SNAP parties, comes Below, a low-key... Read more

  • Found 158

    • Nightlife
    • Dining
    • Bars
    • Address
      158 Julu Lu, near Ruijin Lu
      巨鹿路158号, 近瑞金路
    • Phone

    Once known as the seedy, underground bar maze Da Tong Mill, this development just off Julu Lu has sprung back to life with a boatload of venues; restaurants, bars, lounges, live music venues, a pretty decent pizza place, a little performance theatre in a bar, the... Read more

  • Le Cafe des Stagiaires (Found 158)

    • Nightlife
    • Dining
    • Bars
    • Address
      B1/F, 158 Julu Lu, near Ruijin Yi Lu
      巨鹿路158号B1楼, 近瑞金一路
    • Phone
      158 2147 7495

    This confident storefront is the fourth edition of Shanghai's unofficial French Consulate, from a crew of ex-hospitality interns who decided they wanted to open their own bar. The focus continues to be a chilled, nice-looking place to get quietly hammered on imported... Read more

[Shanghai Famous]:

Shanghai Famous is a weekly SmartShanghai column focusing on people out there in the city makin' the scene. They're out there around town, shaping Shanghai into what it is, creating the art, culture, and life around us. We asked them what's good in Shanghai. We asked them what's bad in Shanghai. We asked them to tell us more, more, more about their wonderful selves.

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