I was born in the ‘70s in a town of 400 people in Provence in southern France. After graduating with honors from a business school in Lyon, where I initially studied philosophy and literature with dreams of becoming a journalist, my then-partner and I decided to move to NYC. I had spent a transformative summer in San Francisco the year I turned 20 and decided I must live abroad. Two years later, in the fall of 1995, I landed in Manhattan with one suitcase, about $2,000 (a fortune at the time!), and no real plan.
My first job was in a small cafe in Nolita. My restaurant beginning may have happened by accident, but the rest of my career immediately became very intentional. I had discovered something at which I was naturally good and enjoyed tremendously. I was noticed quickly and tapped for several openings in the next few years: Jonathan Moore at Bond Street in 1997, in the same year, Jean-George Vongerichten himself for Mercer Kitchen, a few years later it was Keith McNally for the opening of Pastis and the following year Alain Ducasse for Essex House. These were visionary openings (just think—Meatpacking District at the turn of the millenium), and for me, incredible experiences that combined the process of adjusting to a new country at the age of 22 and instilled in me a sense of entrepreneurship and the desire to take risks. I witnessed first-hand what it takes to pursue a vision no matter how avant-garde, bold, or how far off the beaten path it may be.
A few years later, I took a break from work to start a family having my two sons within a couple of years of each other. Having my kids reconnected me with my deep roots around local and seasonal food growing up in the countryside, amidst my grandmother’s massive gardens. After almost a decade in NYC, working for famous restaurateurs, I had lost track of that. Having the responsibility to feed children on my own and care for their health brought back the fundamental questions for me: Where does my food come from? Who grew it? What's in it? I changed my diet along with my family’s, and sourced our food differently.
Soon though, I became restless as a stay-at-home mom, but yet, wasn’t entirely ready to leave my children each day. As I witnessed my older son become bilingual almost overnight, it struck me that I could probably teach French to young children, and decided to start a French school. La Petite Ecole opened in the fall of 2003 as the first French immersion program in Brooklyn. By the following spring, 80 little students were enrolled.
Another project unfolded that year, and in 2004, my then-husband and I opened my first restaurant, Maison May Dekalb (formerly called ICI), around the corner from our house in Fort Greene. The mission was clear: I will not feed my neighbors, or my little French students and their families, anything I would not feed my own children. Maison May Dekalb was born just like that, from a desire to work near to my children and share with the community around me what I truly believed everyone should be able to access: locally sourced, sustainably produced food. Maison May Dekalb was one of the first farm-to-table restaurants in Brooklyn and met with almost immediate success. In 2008, such is life, I was forced to reshuffle my cards. My husband and I split, leaving me with two young children, and difficult life decisions to make. I closed my French school to focus on Maison May Dekalb. In the midst of that very difficult year—yes, the same year the economy crashed—I expanded the existing business and turned the parlor floor above the restaurant into an event space. Without compromising my philosophy toward food and the dining experience, we began hosting weddings at Maison May Dekalb.
Eight years later Maison May Dekalb has become one of the most sought-after wedding destinations in Brooklyn, and my boys are now young teenagers. And in April 2016, along with changing ICI's name to Maison May Dekalb, I opened a second Maison May location-- Maison May Vanderbilt-- just around the corner. Maison May is an ethos, a way of operating rooted in replenishing, feeding & empowering. More than a business model, Maison May is a way of living. At both locations we are doing what we have always done: sourcing and offering food & wine that is alive, hosting beautiful weddings and events and truly, being a home away from home for the guests that join us. The journey continues...