Fall Survival Kit - Return to Basics

I am not going to lie: Fall is the hardest stretch for me, always.


The boys, work, the transition into cold weather, although I love the Indian Summer in NY, I always find myself breathless, not to say most of the time spinning. And this year is no exception with the intense violence spread in the news everyday (national & international), and the transition from running 2 restaurants instead of 1...


Yet, this time around, I’ve never felt more energized. Probably because more than ever, I grounded myself & went back to the essential. Here are my basics, and how I draw energy, whether it be in work, a run at the park or a glass of red wine..

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THE NEXT (R)EVOLUTION

Upon opening Maison May 5 months ago, I decided to remove tipping from both of my establishments. I know this is the right decision and yet it has been anything but easy so far.

So why did I remove tipping?
For me, as it stands now, the system of not paying servers more than a minimum wage & having them rely on tips, feels utterly broken, unfair, outdated & simply wrong. 
This practice has created a monster of an industry where the employers feel no responsibility for their workers and where workers treat their jobs as disposable. The investment of both parties in the game is biased from the get-go because relying on the traditional structure of tipping and minimum hourly wages means also there can not be pay equity among employees: some (like the servers and the bartenders) make much more per hour than other employee (like the events manager and the dishwasher). In this structure, there can never be steps towards economic justice or equity among staff members.

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Blueberries & Sardines

Food is a powerful vessel to connect with the people around us, but also to connect with our actual physical surroundings. The sun, the air and the soil feed the food that we eat—which is why when we eat food produced locally, it gives us a sense of belonging and place. The simple act of eating links us directly back to the earth we are standing on. This is a primal fact that is all too often forgotten in our modern, hyper-processed civilization. We usually don’t know where our food comes from these days, so there is no longer a strong connection with that intimate and visceral understanding. This, by extension, makes it easier for us to forget about caring for that which is feeding us: the planet.

I didn’t know it at the time, but now that I’m an adult, I realize how incredibly lucky I was to grow up in an environment that fostered this understanding. Here is a story that encompasses it all for me.

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On Being a Wine Lover (& Not a Wine Snob...)

A couple weeks ago, the wine importer Camille Rivière & myself hosted a wine dinner at ICI (now called Maison May Dekalb), pouring biodynamic wines from Jura, a region sandwiched between the Alps & Burgundy. At the end of the evening, several guests commented on what a delicious, unpretentious and eye-opening experience this dinner was. I have been drinking solely natural or biodynamic wines for the past 18 years now, and I truly enjoy introducing them to people who have never before tasted these kind of wines. It’s like watching someone who has only eaten Perdue chicken try a chicken from Violet Hill Farm for the first time. Once they taste the difference, they never go back.

Here is what I think about wine and why I drink what I drink & nothing else.

I did not always think the way I do now about wines. If I’m being honest, I used to be somewhat of a wine snob. But then something happened to make me step down off of that pedestal.

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Brooklyn Based: What's on Your Kid's Menu?

I was recently featured on Brooklyn Based and I shared a bit more about my process for cooking for my family. Continue on to read their article:

For Catherine May Saillard, owner of the long-standing Fort Greene restaurant, ICI (now called Maison May Dekalb) “seasonal” and “local” are not marketing tools, but just part of her French upbringing. In 2004, she opened the brownstone doors of the dining room and airy back patio, which today remain one of the prettiest eating options in Brooklyn. Brunch and menu options change monthly, depending on the availability of seasonal produce, but you can expect simple favorites like smoked pork chops with an apple and turnip salad or housemade ricotta cavatelli sprinkled with chanterelles and kale. At home with her two boys, Theo, 14, and Lucas, 12, Catherine practices what she preaches, planning efficient and delicious meals that come together quickly, but without sacrificing taste–or reaching for unhealthy, pre-packaged choices.

 

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Our Family Weekly Cooking Strategy

I had a good laugh the other day when a friend told me that some people have this super glamorous vision of my family life when it comes down to food. They envision me eating at ICI (now called Maison May Dekalb ) almost every night, with my perfectly mannered children—aren’t we French, after all?—just relaxing the night away over delicious food. On the rare nights we’re not there, I become a domestic goddess in the kitchen at home, whipping up something spectacular with ease.

This is as far as you can possibly get from our reality. The boys almost never eat at ICI and while, yes, I can cook, it’s nothing too elaborate. I focus on what I can pull off with one main goal: make something taste delicious efficiently and ethically. In short, we’re a regular family. And in that sense I face the same challenge every head of household does: how do you come up with three meals a day for three (or however many) individuals with incredibly different tastes and needs, in the most nutritious, empowering, and caring way?

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Braised Pork Shoulder, Chimichurri & Creamy Grits

I love this dish because it is comforting, disarmingly easy to make and is best cooked the day before so when your guests arrive, you do not have anything to worry about and your kitchen is clean… And I always do a batch of garlicky sautéed collard greens on the side so I do not feel like I splurge too much...

Have your guests leave with some left over pork, perfect in a sandwich the following day:  spread horseradish mayo on ciabatta & add a few pickles and serve with bitter winter greens.

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Slow Food, Provençal Style

Mine was a serious cook, in a peasant’s intuitive, self-taught way. I never saw her look at a recipe book unless she was making a dessert, and she had the genius ability to produce an amazing dish out of what anyone else would have considered an empty fridge. I have many fond memories of her cooking, but my absolute favorite dish of hers was her ratatouille.

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Where I Am Now - Possibly Who I Am - For Now

I think we’d all like to think ourselves as more than just the sum of our parts. Take me, for example: you could label me as just a female entrepreneur, or a (single) mother, or a restaurateur. I’m French, I’m a New Yorker. But to me, all of those things are so deeply intertwined to make me, you can’t think about one without the other. If I’m just a female entrepreneur, I’m a bitch. Just seen as French, oh, oui, oui, we get it. A single mother first and foremost? It’s oh, poor you.

It’s taken me a long time to realize what I am as a whole, and to free myself from living solely toward others’, or my own, expectations based on any one part of who I am. I had been conditioned for 40 years, but now, as a middle-aged woman—a point I’ve come to that I wholeheartedly embrace, by the way—I don’t get hung up on who I’m supposed to be today, or right now, but rather, what could possibly be in store for me?

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Food Epiphany

By reconnecting with my roots, and with the intrinsic way of eating that had been mine for so many years, I discovered a deeper meaning to it that not only drives how I feed myself, my children, and the community in a healthy and delicious manner—and remains at the core of each and every week when I plan meals for my family and my restaurant—but inspires a way of living and working based on the simple ritual of eating well.

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