Quick Bite with Christiane Lemieux
Three things I have in common with Christiane Lemieux (and maybe you do, too):
- We would choose cheese and bread over sweets and dessert any day.
- We love French food.
- We thought when we had kids they would eat and experiment just like us!
If you have not yet met the founder of DwellStudio, (the fashion-forward, modern design house she launched in 2000), author of the best seller “Undecorate: The No-Rules Approach to Interior Design,” judge on HGTV Ellen’s Design Challenge (can you think of a more fabulously fun gig?), and mom of two, I hope you read her Quick Bite and instantly fall in love with her the way we did. She is posting new videos on her YouTube channel and alludes to a new endeavour at lemieuxetcie.com and we CANNOT wait to learn more (but she wouldn’t share details just yet)! In the meantime, I plan to live vicariously and happily through her musings about France, the Hamptons, and the fact that her kids don’t love broccoli either.
Sweet Potato Chronicles: As a designer, do you have any tips/tricks for home cooks with regards to setting up their kitchens?
Christiane Lemieux: I think the setup has to flow with the way you prep and cook. And I love a big island: As big as possible. We devoted half our kitchen to an island and now it¹s for cooking, homework and, well, everything else. Go for surface!
Also, live in your kitchen for a little while before choosing where everything goes. Let the flow help you figure it out.
SPC: Travel has always been very important to you: What are your favourite international restaurants and what is your favourite type of cuisine?
CL: Food is one of the biggest reasons why I love to travel. I will eat almost anything. I’ve tried everything from snake to scorpion to strange organs that have no translation. I love it all. I really love traveling in Italy with kids because they love every meal. We just came back from South East Asia and did a lot of delicious satays. My favourite Cuisine is still French: I would trade anything for a meal at Le Comptoir in Paris.
SPC: Do you cook at home? If so, what’s your specialty?
CL: I love, love, LOVE to cook. I cooked everything until I had kids. I happen to have not one but two kids who find eating boring. It’s still a shock to me: I dreamed of endless, steaming bowls of homemade Bolognese and appreciative children. Not to be in my case. I am now an expert at pizza and crepes and my kids love it.
SPC: You live in New York, but also have a home in the Hamptons: Do you entertain differently depending on which location you are at?
CL: I entertain much more in the Hamptons because it’s outdoor and fluid. The kids run in and out, it’s casual with bathing suits and sandy feet. It just feels effortless and fun. We also belong to a CSA (community-supported agriculture) in the Hamptons and have access great produce. We pick it ourselves and I love what it teaches my kids.
Entertaining in the city tends to be more formal, at the table and I can use my good plates, set a “real” table and usually entertain accordingly. (I like that grown ups sit down.)
SPC: What is your most memorable meal with your family?
CL: I think it was a Moroccan tagine lunch in the Sahara that we travelled to via camel. It was at a small restaurant called La Pause and the whole experience was incredible.
SPC: What’s your earliest food memory?
CL: A baguette in France. I spent a lot of time there as a child and I think the shape and taste has always stayed with me.
SPC: How did you learn to cook?
CL: My parents taught me at home. They are big foodies and I always remember being in the kitchen. My parents met at the Sorbonne in Paris so French food was the cuisine of my childhood. I think my mom was always channelling Julia.
SPC: What do you like best about cooking?
CL: It’s a creative endeavour like anything else. I like the time and space it allows me. It’s an escape from my very busy day. Its the prefect way to unwind. I also love that you see the results.
SPC: Do you like to cook solo or with others?
CL: I like both. I really like solo cooking because its meditative but nothing beats a raucous barbecue with everyone pitching in.
SPC: What is your idea of the ultimate comfort food and why?
CL: Soup of any kind. I love a noodle soup with chicken broth or a veggie puree. I think it’s warming and simple and always delivers.
SPC: Do you have a sweet or salty tooth? What’s your guilty pleasure?
CL: Salty! I would choose a charcuterie platter with cheese and crusty bread over almost anything. It’s the French girl in me. Add in the pickles and butter and I am yours.
SPC: How has parenthood changed the way you cook?
CL: Parenthood has narrowed my repertoire. I used to try and cook everything and have my kids at least try it but there was so much food wasted, hungry kids and tears that now I am down to a few healthy things that work.
SPC: Do your children join you in the kitchen?
CL: They do. They are really happy to bake with me anytime. They love to eat half baked cookie dough and they will never say no to a cupcake and will chop and prep anything. I think the knives and chopping are thrilling to them. It’s getting them to eat the results that is sometimes hard. A wise mom once told me that if I cooked with my kids that they would be more interested in eating but that is only true to a point. The buck stops with broccoli.
SPC: What do your kids not eat that you wish they would?
CL: Vegetables. I wish they would eat more. I try to dress them up or sneak them into other foods but my kids are on to me. They smell green.
SPC: Are there rules at your table? Clean your plate? Eat your vegetables or no dessert?
CL: Manners are important! Try one bite of everything. I also try for some volume of eating. I sometimes just go for calories when all else fails.
SPC: What’s your go-to-late-home-from-work-on-a-weekday dish?
CL: Pasta with a fresh tomato sauce. Simple easy and my kids always love it. I save the basil garnish for me.
SPC: Do you usually buy or pack your lunch? Does it resemble your kids’ lunches? And do you eat at your desk, standing up or walking/commuting to your next meeting?
CL: I usually buy lunch, have lunch meeting or I hate to say it: I just forget. I am in start up mode again so I make lunch meetings so I remember to eat and that I love food.
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