How I Snapped out of my Food Coma

The deep connection that I have now with food has evolved over the course of the years.
It has not been as linear as one would think.
Looking back, it is truly with the birth of my 1st child  that I reclaimed my ancestral relationship with food & started feeding myself & those around me, at home & in my businesses with my guts, and not with my brain.

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Catherine May
The Blue Arrow

"What is next for you, Catherine, now?"
It is the opening night of Maison May.
Susan, a neighbor, is planted right in front of me.
I can only smile, I am too tired to cry.
"What's next? Well, growing that new business. And then after, I don't know yet".
People like success stories that are fast & furious.
Real life has a different pace.
When at last I was able to ask myself that question, a new paradigm emerged.

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On Raising Boys, Growing a Vision & Harvesting

As the summer is coming to an end, I am remembering a biodynamic winemaker I met long ago.
She was pregnant during the winter.  She tended to her vines through the spring & summer as her belly was blossoming. She delivered her baby boy in September, during the harvest.
She had planted, cultivated & was then harvesting what had grown inside & outside of her, following the seasons.

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Catherine May
On Entrepreneur's Responsibilities

May always brings up a whirlwind of emotions for me:  
It is my (re-)BirthDay & this year, Maison May turned 1.

As I am pausing to celebrate & reflect on that 1st year, I gathered a few friends & regulars and as I am standing in front of them a story came up,  words unexpectedly poured out of me & before I knew it, I was describing what modern entrepreneurship should be.

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Catherine May
A Decade Later - What I own.

A few weeks ago a friend suggested that I write about the year that was coming to an end- she felt, rightfully so, that I needed to pause before I would leap again.
Yet in trying to do so, my writing felt ineluctably vain & empty: 
I had accomplished so much and worked more than ever, yet, nothing felt quite worth writing about. 
And I could not figure out why.
Then December 30th came. 
An email hit my inbox that day which made me pause & look back to 10 years earlier.
Only then did it all made sense:
I was not wrapping up a year but a decade.

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Fall Survival Kit - Return to Basics

Fall is the hardest stretch for me, always.
The transition into cold weather & the march towards shorter days & the holidays always put me 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 essentials. 
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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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.
Like a few major decisions I have made before, as I came to the realization of what is fair & needs to happen, now there is no turning back.
Here is, in essence, what led me to take such a giant step. 
I have no perspective on this decision yet, neither do I have tangible results.  
I am here to show the process & to enjoy the ride.

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Maison May: Redefining Success

A few weeks ago, I pushed open the doors of MAISON MAY VANDERBILT.  
I had a clear aesthetic vision, a strong business idea and above all, a deep desire for it to perspire emotions & tell a story, my story. I was not sure how it would all articulate itself in the end or really, how this story would even manifest itself in the actual space. 
But to my own surprise, it is working.

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On Letting Go: I Am Opening a 2nd Location!

In early November, I had had enough of it all. I had been searching for a full year for the right 2nd location- and the process had gone from being exhilarating and exciting, to utterly depleting. I had pushed myself, as I always do: going really fast, just go, go, go. 
And so by November, I gave up. 
Right at that moment, when everything about my project softened in me, well, the location came.
And of course, it had been there all along. 

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

Recently the boys & I went to see the latest Hunger Games Mockingjay movie. With a budget of  $160 million, 
the film is considered a "success" for grossing something like $240 million so far, worldwide.
 As we left the movie, my head still spinning, I kept thinking: how do I reframe what really defines creativity, art & dedicated work to my boys in our society that defines success based on dollars.
Then, a memory came to me and the summers I spent in the Ardèche region in my godmother’s little bakery & how with each baguette sold, I learnt how success is what happens when someone pursue quality & integrity.

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

 If you live in Brooklyn, and take time to walk around a bit, you are probably well aware of the incredible disconnect happening in our borough right now: stretches of once-vibrant commercial streets are turning into no-man's-lands, with two or three vacant storefronts on every block (please, if you haven't recently, go walk down Smith Street.)
At the same time, the rest of the world is looking at Brooklyn fantasizing about the way of life here, supposedly the most vibrant, creative, and exciting place to be in the whole wide world. 
How can such a dichotomy happen? 
More importantly, what does it mean for those living in Brooklyn, and then, for those beyond this microcosm?
And why do I care about that so much?

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Blueberries & Sardines

A summer in the 1980's: I am 10 years old. 
My feet are dunked in the sand, my gaze on the horizon of the placid Gulf of Saint-Tropez.  All over my fingers & my face is the smell of freshly grilled sardines, which I just devoured. I am happy: with each I got closer to the sea, merging with all elements surrounding me.
Summer 2015: Upstate NY with my boys. 
Theo is covered in blueberry juice & Lucas has an impressive cream-on-top-milk-mustache. As I watch my sons, I am transported back to the beach of my childhood, grasping all at once how food not only connects people to each other, but to a place, a precise geographic pocket of where it comes from, in a very visceral way.

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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 Maison May), pouring biodynamic wines from Jura, France.
At the end of the evening, several guests commented on what a delicious, unpretentious & eye-opening experience this dinner was. 
I truly enjoy introducing natural wines to people who have never before tasted these kind of wines before. It's like watching someone eating farm fresh chicken for the 1st time: Once you taste the difference, you never go back.

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On Building Community

On a gorgeous spring evening last week, a dozen people gathered on the patio at ICI (now Maison May)
for the May edition of our community dinner series. 
Each month a handful of neighbors, customers 
& friends of friends join us for this special dinner. 
There is no agenda and the theme is very subtle each time. 
But the purpose is strong: by gathering around a table 
& sharing food, I aim to feed everyone's soul  & build a community.

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

Recently, I found myself standing by the kitchen pass  after an epic dinner at ICI (now Maison May), feeling like the stars had aligned. 
I was overwhelmed by a delicious feeling of raw empowerment & accomplishment. Looking at my two co-chefs, Armando & Robert, I felt like a football coach on the night of the Super Bowl, after the quarterback scored the winning touchdown to lead the team to victory. 
The food had exceeded my high expectations,  
I felt like my vision had been met, yet I had not set foot in the kitchen or cooked a thing. 
How does that happen?  

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

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