Your magical evening in Paris awaits
When traveling to Paris, food is always on the itinerary. There are cafes made for people-watching with pastries, gardens made for picnicking, and cobblestone streets made for strolling with baguettes in hand. It’s hard not to run into delicious bread and cheese…but when it’s homemade bread and cheese soufflé, fresh out of the oven in a French woman named Françoise’s beautiful Parisian apartment, that’s something different altogether. Whether for endless cakes and tarts at her brunches, abundant amounts of wine and cheese at her tapas events, or her quintessentially French dinner parties, she has become famous for her hosting expertise. She even told us that hosting international guests around her table makes her feel a bit “like a magician.” Read on for her Eatwith stories.
Tell us about yourself.
I am a former art director of 18 years in advertising agencies. I opened my catering company 5 years ago after several stays in Japan, where my eyes and my palate got familiar with different shapes, colors and tastes. Aesthetics became very important in food, as they already were in my former job. I’m happy now to cater for production companies, magazines, and fashion week and to have the chance to be creative when I cook. I organize cocktail dinner parties in Paris.
I was in charge of the trendy Gaité Lyrique brunch for two years. I now collaborate with Hotel Bohême, for whom I run the tearoom, with Hotel du Nord on Canal Saint-Martin where I write the menus time to time and organize events. I can’t eat anything without smelling it before and I always spend abroad 3 days a month to discover new food markets.
What’s your favorite thing about hosting?
Individuals from different backgrounds and countries gathering at my table…it makes me feel a little bit like a magician. I love to watch people eat the first bite of each dish, and after the “mmmmmm,” watch them try to find what’s in it and how. It’s the exact moment like a holy communion where everybody agrees.
But the big rewards are the long hug or toast after the meal, second or third Eatwith comers, or all those cheerful messages from guests I only met once who worried if I was safe after Paris terrorist attacks. It really made me feel part of happy few community.
Omiyage (little gifts) as well. I feel people are like the 3 Kings, they come with very far away presents… the rare kitchen tool, the paper necklace from Africa, the lilikoi curd from a private garden in Hawaii or the special organic roast coffee from San Francisco, it’s always personal and generous. Guests forget the concept of money in this deal and what really matters is that you’ve opened your house to them and that’s what creates a special bond. It creates intimacy, immediate trust, and quite often a desire of reciprocity.
Tell us about your culinary journey. How did you start cooking?
For me, cooking is a memories affair. I was raised in my family’s kitchens: my grandfather was a fisherman and then a cook on boats. (It was he who called me Fanny). My grandmother cooked fish like no one else. Big meals were a big thing in my family! I spent hours watching my grandfather in Marseille cook our meals and show me his tricks.
As I grew up, I dreamed of meals in literature and cinema… the wedding scene in Albert Camus “Noces à Tipaza” …or the banquet in “The Scorta’s Sun” …the ending meal of the movie “Big Night”…or the simple corn fritters in Hirokazu Koreeda’s movie: “Still Walking.”
Tell us about your most memorable or standout Eatwith experiences.
The first one. It’s difficult to describe because we’ve all invited friends over for dinner, organized parties and met strangers… but the first Eatwith is a special one. They’re all strangers, you don’t know who they are or what they look like and the first time is without a safety net. It’s like your first travel abroad or your first talk in public. It really involves sincerity and generosity. I’ll always remember my first four guests, Adam and Julie and Annette and Mette, who I had dinner with in Sweden a few months later.
Tell us your funniest stories from your table.
This crime short stories writer, Twist Phelan, told us in front of her husband (whom she met this way) the story of how she dated one hundred men in one hundred days.
Second funny story was this 20 year-old guy who came home with his parents, and left with slices of my Italian bread in his pocket (after he left the table several times to go back in the living room where the bread was). Huge compliment, isn’t it?
Third…and most frequent story: all my guests become suddenly French! While they’re eating, they already speak about their next meal. Is it typically french? I think so.
Which hosts would you want to Eatwith?
Ai in New York, for the beauty of her table. Federica in Rome, to learn about the gorgeous baroque atmosphere I imagine. Papa Serra in Barcelona because this one really understands how a business works. Would like to learn from him. And any host in Israel, where this adventure all begun!
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Easy one! Once, I dreamt I was cooking simple garlic & tomato pasta for Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones and it was the most vivid dream ever…so come on Keith, show up if you’re a man :)! I promise you you’ll like it…because you already told me it was the best you ever had!
And people who can put on a show at the table: comedians, singers, storytellers. I love to be entertained! Food and laughter, food and tears…it’s life, isn’t it ?
What is your favorite part about living in Paris?
It’s at the same time a very cosmopolitan city like most capitals, and a city who thinks she’s the center of the world.