"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.
"What is next for you, Catherine, now?"
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..
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Eating local food in Brooklyn certainly constitutes something quite different than what I was doing growing up in Provence, where all senses were easily activated in a rush of colors, smells, tastes.
However, in navigating the NYC landscape for the past 2 decades and learning how to source local food here, I managed to find a similar kaleidoscope of senses, and, more importantly, realize the impact on our community.
And along the way I developed a strategy to feed my family in a conscious yet efficient way & cook, connect, build & restore.
I do not believe in New Year's resolutions:
it is too much pressure and in the end, it is too easy to drop them. I believe in process instead.
On slow, steady, sustainable building.
2015 is due to bring huge changes in my professional life.
But it did not happen overnight, neither did I wake up on
January 1st and decided to go for it.
My aunt “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.Read More
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 who 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.