It is 10am on a Tuesday.
The early morning crowd has wound down (we open at 8am) and I am sitting at one of the long communal table with a tea pot of Cloud & Mist, the newspaper spread in front of me.
Lhasa is playing in the background and the morning light feels luscious. By the big windows that are overlooking Maison May Dekalb garden, I can see the trees gently rocking.
I turn around just in time to spot Lily strolling down Vanderbilt. She looks up and waves at Brit, our morning server & me.
A few minutes later Jonathan rushes out of the building next door. He looks tense. I imagine he is (as usual) late for work…
Max zooms passed on his scooter. His helmet, not totally securely attached, is dangling on the right side of his head. He has a huge grin on his face. I count to 3 slowly and Letesha appears, running and screaming: "Wait up, Max!"
Nicolas walks in, I have not seen him in 3 weeks—he was traveling. He had been among our early regulars when we opened. The first time he came, he had sat & ordered a latte, and then, opening his bag, he had pulled out a computer to proceed to start working. I had walked slowly to him & said “You are welcome to stay for as long as you wish, consider this my living room. But I do not allow laptops here. It blurs the energy, energy that I have intentionally & carefully created.”
Surprised at first, he had argued for 5 minutes, seemingly simply for the sake of a good argumentation. We then had spent another 45 minutes talking about connections, community & how what we do on this side of the planet impact the other side. And ever since, like many others, he has been coming to Maison May regularly with a book, a pen and his moleskin, or a friend or two. To work, talk, dream & write. Without a laptop.
By now, it is 11am on this idyllic Tuesday: Joseph & Linda stroll in for their morning date. They come once a week for breakfast. I smile seeing them because like me, they are not afraid to order a consommé for breakfast: we joked the 1st time, “It is peasant food!”. I told them how it makes me feel like a farmer, gulping a bowl of raw energy to start the day: a clear beef (or lamb or chicken) broth with a poached egg & a scoop of spicy miso. Linda had laughed & agreed, and since then telling me how energized & clean she feels every time she has breakfast at Maison May.
By now, a gentle lunch crowd starts to roll in.
Two women burst in & go straight to the shelves where I stock objects for the house for purchase: tea towel, bowls, cups & accessories.
I smile again because they touch everything. They bury their hands in the luscious linen of a tablecloth, grab the pottery to hold the piece tight and turn it around, they softly brush the pieces hanging from Mquan, an amazed look on their faces, they marvel at the wood of the carefully carved boards.
I smile because with every gesture, they capture a bit of what I have put on those shelves: the raw energy of skilled, passionate craftspeople.
The phone rings: another request for a private event. Brit smiles and congratulates the woman on the phone on her upcoming wedding & promises that we will send her information to review options for both of our Maisons for her private event.
There is beauty in opening a business where people want to be.
And when I say be, I mean really just be.
I am not in the restaurant industry, just selling food & hosting private events.
Instead Maison May is a way for me to bring people together: to connect people, to gather, to feed and to have a platform to empower, change, inspire, create, work.
With the opening of Maison May, amazingly, I found an outlet for those deep yearnings & desires, a way to unleash them, yearnings & desires that were censored for years and then simply contrived.
This is really my home, and not only in the physical sense of it but because it allows me to simply live.
I pause. It is 2pm now.
Does what I am doing here right now count as working?
I am sitting watching life swirling around Maison May, in and out.
Maybe it is not work right there at this moment but this is the result of my work and this is what I need to sit & appreciate from time to time to never loose the focus on that picture.
I need to never forget why I am building Maison May.
I need to carry that morning to the nights when I wake up torn by anxiety & stress- the bucolic picture I painted is true to form but it doesn’t mean that the coin only has one side: no mud, no lotus- when the pressure of running a successful business (I mean 2) grabs me at my core, throwing me in the arms of doubt, when I am tempted to take shortcuts. Shortcuts that would destroy the very essence of what I am all about & turn me back into just another restaurateur.
So I will take that Tuesday morning, full of light, full of smiles & simple stories.
I will let Maison May feed me so I can always feed it back with integrity.
And then right then & there I smile (yes, again) and think that I have managed to redefine success for myself & for my businesses.
A new voice has emerged in my head lately, powerful enough to quiet the darker ones:
“Catherine, you nailed it. You totally did. Trust it. Keep going.”
Stay tuned as Maison May Dekalb, our restaurant is going through some more evolution.
The name change was just the beginning....