A Decade Later - What I own.

December 30th 2016: an email hits my inbox at 4.14pm.
It is not as delicious as a Madeleine & far less poetic, but the trigger is the same: I am transported 10 years back.
Its timing was random: the person who sent that message had no knowledge of its potential effect, therefore no agenda.
That day, 10 years ago in December 2006, had been one of an incredible violence & the start of an journey for me.
For many years after, the sheer prospect of simply having that date on the calendar once a year was enough to blur my vision, dry my throat & have cold sweat run down my spine.
That email landing in my inbox on that particular date felt like a malicious whisper: “Do you remember?”

But instead of spiraling down, that day I found myself smiling & feeling extraordinarily composed: there was no sweat & the memory it triggered with all its aftermath was sliding down my brain, my heart, my soul with absolutely nowhere to plant its claws.
At that point, I was not even owning any of what was taking place. I felt like I was floating above that past decade and I ended up that evening on my couch going through pictures.
Looking at them, I was not searching for my kids to remember their cute faces & changing bodies.
No, for once, I was looking at myself.
Or actually, I was looking for myself.

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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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2 Croissants & 1 Baguette, s’il vous plait!

The year I turned 13, my godmother Françoise, then 22, married a lovely young baker named Thierry. She and I had always been close—she was my cousin, and her becoming my godmother at just nine years old forged a special bond between us. Thierry was a totally dedicated artisan, as well as an entrepreneur at heart, in a very unpretentious way. Eager to unleash his creativity right away, he decided right after their wedding to settle somewhere so they could run their own bakery. They found the perfect spot in a sweet little village called La Louvesc, perched on top of a beautiful little mountain in the heart of the gorgeous and lush Ardèche.

In the winter, all but about 200 people left the village, and not a lot of people would venture up the treacherous, icy road to the village. But when the beautiful days of spring returned, the town would morph back into a busy hive—the 15 hotels lining the main street would re-open, summer camps would get ready to welcome their flocks, and the summer houses would get dusted off and opened up. Overnight, the population would surge into the thousands for the next few months.

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Brooklyn In 2015: Building, Consuming & Throwing It All Away

Walking down Smith Street last week, I was once again struck by a sight that has become all too common in Brooklyn: between Atlantic Avenue and Union Street, a span of roughly 10 blocks, there are at least two or three empty commercial spaces per block, all with  “for rent” signs in the windows. A lot of these spaces have been vacant for well over a year, because the rents being demanded are unsustainable for any small business.

At the same time, my friends in Paris are going crazy over the latest exhibit at the very “à la modeBon Marché store and gallery. Their theme this month is, of course, Brooklyn. The exhibit confirms once again what we all know: Our borough is the trendiest destination in the world right now.

How can such a dichotomy happen?

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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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Leading a Kitchen: Standing at the Pass... Spring Menu (R)Evolution

About three months ago, we decided to do some exploration to streamline the menu at ICI (now called Maison May Dekalb ), and redefine a few of its parameters. On the evening of the launch of the new menu, I sat down with a dear friend to eat my way through it, and make whatever adjustments might be necessary. By the end of the meal, however, I was overcome with the most intense feelings I’d had in the 11 years of owning my own restaurant—the food was beautiful. Flawless. It felt entirely mine, and I could stand behind it, 100%. It looked like me, and the menu tasted exactly like what I wanted Maison May Dekalb to be. 

I say this despite having not once set foot in the kitchen to peel a potato. I’ve never come up with a composed dish—the truth is, I still mix up the sautee pan with the frying pan. 

Yet, I can still claim every menu at ICI (now called Maison May Dekalb, ) just as much as the chefs de cuisine. It is a team effort, a gentle collaboration, and the menu becomes a fantastic way to express my vision and creativity. 

Let me explain.

 

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Getting married... in Brooklyn!

ICI (now called Maison May Dekalb ) has grown into much more than a delicious farm-to-table restaurant in the heart of Fort Greene and has, in recent years, become the top destination for thoughtful, intimate boutique weddings in New York City. I’m still in awe over this success, and wanted to share some of the philosophy behind it all.

I sat down with Lauren Berg, to pick her brain. She is our beloved event coordinator, and a large part of her duties includes ensuring that every wedding held at ICI (now called Maison May Dekalb )will exceed expectations.

She started with us six years ago and since then has gradually taken charge of events because of her deep sense of care, empathy & hospitality—essential qualities when working with happy, but sometimes stressed, couples planning their big day. She has booked, designed, and orchestrated hundreds of weddings at ICI (now called Maison May Dekalb.)

Here, she gives us a few pointers on how she makes it all work so well.

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Evolution Rather than Resolutions

At year’s end I always become reflective about what I’ve been through, and, most importantly, what lies ahead. As 2014 drew to a close I began to wonder: in a city that never sleeps, where success is measured in dollars, where everyone runs on an invisible wheel, and where sustainability is often mixed up with being slow, how do I figure out my professional and, in turn, personal progression?

How can I define my ambition in terms of the right way to grow?

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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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