Interviews

Draw Me A Fridge: Chico Shigeta

Frigo Chico

For this new installment of our Draw Me A Fridge series (read about it here), Alexia met with naturopath Chico Shigeta. The caption on her drawing (click here to enlarge) translates to, “My fridge isn’t a space for storing foods, it’s for storing the enchanted life.”

A naturopath, aromatherapist, and shiatsu specialist, this super kawaii Japanese-but-French-at-heart woman launched her Coaching Vitalité method, inspired by universal wellness techniques, in 2003. This method is based, among other things, on food, with seasonal fruits and veggies taking the prime spot.

Her expertise has made her a favorite in the celebrity and business worlds, while her Shigeta care line (face and body cosmetics, essential oils, floral waters and herbal teas) is quickly expanding. Chico shares her tips for a delicious detox full of vitality in her book Détox 100% Vitalité (in French).

AC: What are your fridge staples?

CS: Right now I keep delicious seaweed from Japan which my aunt, who lives on the coast, gets from a place that she keeps secret. Their taste is unlike any other. I always have soy sauce available, even though I don’t use very much of it, as well as wasabi. I have fresh ginger and yuzu kosho, a Japanese condiment made with yuzu citrus zest and Japanese chili. I also store capers and green peppercorns. In my fridge you’ll also find excellent fruit vinegars (currently raspberry and mango) that have to be kept chilled because they are so rich in fruits.

I make sure I always have chives and flat parsley, carrots (for their juice), and salad leaves. I actually keep fruits and veggies at room temperature and I buy fish on the same day I cook it, so my fridge is more of a storage unit than anything else. And I buy milk maybe once a year if I really need it for a recipe.

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Draw Me A Fridge: Septime’s Bertrand Grébaut

For the first installment of our new Draw Me A Fridge series (all the details here), Alexia met with Bertrand Grébaut, chef of the Paris restaurant Septime.

A former head chef at Agapé (where he was awarded a Michelin star in record time), trained by Passard and Robuchon, Bertrand Grébaut opened up his restaurant Septime in April 2011. The long waiting list hasn’t shortened since, nor has the impeccable, friendly service of his team wavered.

AC: What are your fridge staples?

BG: Oh, this is quite embarrassing — our fridge is rather empty! Actually, we keep plenty of bottles of sparkling water in there — all sorts of brands. In our freezer, we have a small carton of chilies that my girlfriend got from her restaurant supplier (Editor’s note: Tatiana Levha, Ex-Astrance, Ex-Arpège, is the pastry chef behind the signature desert of the Foodstock festival held on May 12, 2012). We use the tiniest pinch of it when we prepare a dish. Those chilies are so spicy that this carton will last forever!

We also keep a really nice tomato sauce in there. Actually, we always have an excellent burrata in our fridge that I get from the Italian coop (Editor’s note: Coopérative Latte Cisternino 108 rue Saint Maur 75011), as well as some cured meats. We also always have some super fresh parsley and cilantro — we use them with everything. And soy sauce. And although it does kill me a little bit to admit it, I am a sucker for industrial mayonnaise and instant noodles!

AC: Do you handle the grocery shopping yourself?

BG: We do our shopping at Marché Popincourt and Marché d’Aligre, as well as at small neighborhood food shops. We don’t eat at home often. I spend my entire week cooking, so when the weekend comes, I make sure I get out there and see what the other chefs are up to.

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Draw Me A Fridge: A New Interview Series

With the help of (and based on an idea by) my friend Alexia Colson-Duparchy, I am pleased to launch a new series on Chocolate & Zucchini titled Draw Me A Fridge, in which she will be grilling personalities from the food world and beyond about what’s in their fridge. Those who feel inspired will be providing a doodle to illustrate it.

But first, meet Alexia Colson-Duparchy!

Alexia

Raised on quinoa and wild rice from her early days, long before they were on the savvy foodies’ radar, food never left Alexia indifferent. It wasn’t until she flew away from the parental nest and moved to the land of poutine (Quebec) that she realized that when you invite a bunch of friends over for dinner, well, you better start cooking.

She discovered the luxury of a well-stocked fridge when she started to work as a lawyer and aspired to a) eat things other than greasy slices of cold pepperoni pizza at her desk; and b) maintain some sort of a social life. Her successive moves to the lands of bobotie (Cape Town), fish and chips (London) and laham mashwee (Abu Dhabi) and back to oeuf mayo (Paris) only amplified her natural curiosity for other people’s vision of culinary delights.

Today, she plans on using this column to bring peace to the world, one open fridge at a time!

Chocolate Naive: A Q&A With Domantas Užpalis

Domantas

Today I bring you an interview with Domantas Užpalis, a bean-to-bar chocolate maker from Lithuania who contacted me a few months ago to tell me about his project, Chocolate Naive: he and his team roast, winnow, grind and temper their own chocolate in a manufacture based in the Lithuanian countryside.

He offered to send samples of their new collection, which includes a 43% milk chocolate, a 68% Uganda chocolate with fleur de sel, a 71% Grenada chocolate, and a 63% cinnamon-orange chocolate. I received the bars, tasted them, and was truly impressed: this was excellent chocolate, complex and refined. I was also wildly intrigued by the story behind it, and asked Domantas if he would answer a few questions for me.

It turns out this self-described chocolate lunatic is quite a character, and I hope you enjoy reading about his chocolate-making adventures as much as I did. I know I would love to fly to Lithuania and visit his dacha and chocolate factory!

And if you want to taste his chocolate too, it is distributed in select stores in Europe, and can be ordered from the Chocolate Naive website.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

My name is Domantas Užpalis — blue-eyed, medium height, big smile. Seriously, I am the founder of this weird project called Chocolate Naive. We have been manufacturing fine chocolate in the middle of nowhere for one and a half years now. We are small-scale chocolate makers, who create chocolate from scratch, and by that I mean we roast, winnow, conche and temper chocolate ourselves in the countryside, in Lithuania. I will add that, at this very moment, I live the dream!

What sequence of events inspired you to create Chocolate Naive, and what is your vision?

All my life I was involved in corporate careers — finance, marketing, or insurance. I graduated with a master’s degree in Urban Development in London and 2008 was the year I came back home to Lithuania, all arrogant and self-confident. I was expecting high recognition and a full-speed career, but the international crisis turned everything upside down. And here I was — jobless, socially isolated, with no personal life, in poor health and with savings running out. When I look at that period in retrospect, I can clearly say that it was the lowest point of my life. For more than two years I literally struggled to survive.

The solution was obvious: what else if not chocolate? Shall I go from uber negative to super positive paradigm? I bought one ton of cacao beans and threw myself into chocolate very spontaneously. The beans arrived at my warehouse: a bunch of jute bags full of aromatic cacao beans. I had no idea how to process them, where to process them and what machinery I needed, but from that very moment on, we started assembling the puzzle very quickly.

First of all, we moved to the beautiful countryside near the lake. We secured a business loan and the first machinery started arriving to our rustic dacha in the middle of nowhere. Robust chocolate bars were born with the help of our local employee Kristina, a mother of seven, who is now the head of production. Some time ago her daughter Sabina joined the team, so now we can say that it is a true family business.

Twenty tons a year — that is our end goal. We have set this upper limit for the total Chocolate Naive production and we will keep that promise. The upper limit is to remember that the project started as a getaway from the corporate world, and if we exceed the limit we will run the risk of throwing ourselves back to the office (no way!).

Here is our end vision: to develop our farm and to acquire one in a cacao growing country in order to develop full vertical integration of manufacturing; to manufacture the most sophisticated chocolate and bring back the crown to the Food of Gods; to spread joy, peace of mind, and to educate people about the importance of finding their Chocolate of life.

Chocolate Naive

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Cooking on Vacation by Sarah McColl

This is part of a series of Q&A’s about cooking on vacation. The complete list of posts in this series is available here.

Sarah McColl is a senior editor at Yahoo! Shine and the very lovable writer behind Pink of Perfection, a lifestyle blog on which the Dallasite-turned-Brooklynite discusses everything a girl needs to feast, delight and flourish. She does so with a gracious and insightful touch that makes readers feel she and they could be the best of friends, and a visit to her site always leaves me refreshed and nurtured. Also, wouldn’t she be perfect to play Joan Holloway‘s younger sister?

Here she tells us about cocktail hour on the deck, barbecued rattlesnake, and cold-press coffee.

Are you taking a vacation this summer? Will you have a chance to cook while there?

We have been looking forward all summer to our vacation in Washington’s San Juan Islands, but it’s our first vacation where we will be staying in a rented house and cooking most of our own meals. Right now my vision is to keep things really simple: putting my husband to work on the grill, sandwiches, roast chicken on cool nights, cheese and crackers, simple salads. It will be an experiment and adventure!

In what way do you feel your vacation cooking style differs from your everyday cooking style?

I think I expect my everyday cooking to do a lot more than sate my hunger. I want it to be pleasurable, to set me right again after the indignities of the workday. The cooking quiets me and the eating brings our family together. But it’s a lot to demand from a meal! I think there are fewer expectations on vacation. When you’ve been lucky enough to spend the day reading in a hammock or swimming in a lake, dinner doesn’t need to be the highlight of the day in the same way.

The entire vibe of this vacation is going to be low-key and relaxed, so I can see us picking up a few things at a farmer’s market, packing sandwiches for picnics or making dinner an extended cocktail hour: put out some cheese and crackers, pour a glass of wine and call it a day. On the other hand, once we’ve had a few days to relax, we might feel like getting ambitious again. We’ll see!

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