Today I am interviewing, Béatrice de Montille, a French mum I strongly admire for having created a very successful business, Merci Maman, around her family life.
She founded Merci Maman, personalised jewellery brand, back in 2007, from her kitchen table, after spotting a gap in the market for personalised gifts. Now, ten years on, she works with her husband, Arnaud, and a team of 32 in their London, Paris and recently opened, Berlin studios! She won numerous awards including the Queen’s Award for Enterprise and even got interviewed on the BBC.
Béatrice is a French-born mother of four. After living in London for 14 years, she now lives with her husband and children, Martin (13), Chloe (11), Romane (8), and Garance (6) in Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France!
Croque-Maman: What is your most cherished childhood food memory?
Béatrice: My mum always bought high-quality ingredients, for example, good meat from the butcher or nice vegetables from the market so we were educated in eating simple but healthy food from a young age.
She was never a particularly good cook but she enjoyed making home-made French meals for the family like gratin dauphinois, hachis parmentier, tomates farcies…
Her favourite thing to make and a speciality was the “endives au jambon” chicoree rolled in ham with a nice béchamel sauce, always made with love and attention to detail!
CM: What are your top tips to manage meal time and/or to promote healthy childhood eating?
B: I always have a big basket of fruit and veg in my kitchen which encourages us to reach our 5 a day. I feel like our children are growing up with a good relationship with food; they are sensible and eat healthily but we are not perfect! Eating healthily can have it’s challenging moments – we try to prepare meals ourselves but it is easy to be tempted with quicker, ready-made meals. Running a business and raising four children means that my time is precious so I tend not to cook a lot. I love simple, fast and easy meals; lots of salads, soups and steamed vegetables. Try to avoid butter and greasy food as much as I can.
At the weekend, we love inviting friends over to our house, and I will take time to prepare a nice meal. Something I love to cook is vegetables with olive oil and Provence herbs cooked 2-3 hours in the oven and a nice lamb roast.
My last pride was a Pavlova, made with homemade meringue, seasonal fruits and whipped cream. I has such a great effect when you bring it on the table! My greedy son loves it too and always asks if there are any leftovers :-)
CM: What are your children’s favourite dish(es)?
B: My two eldest children, Martin and Chloe, love cooking on their own now and I love to see them becoming independent, responsible and willing to learn! I am always happy to see them invade my kitchen but there is one rule, the kitchen must be clean and tidy when they have finished cooking. I am proud to say that it works !
I love cooking with my two youngest girls, it is great quality time with our family and I can really disconnect from work. They love this precious time when their mummy is dedicated to them.
Preparing nice meals for others is a great way to show them how much you love them and cooking is a great school of life : you have to be precise following the recipe, you can be creative too, adding your own touch to the recipe, you have to pay attention to details as it can go wrong very easily.
Martin regularly cooks mushroom risottos for the family while Chloe is in charge of the dessert, baking her favorite chocolate cookies. Yummy !
Regularly they pretend we are in a restaurant, they prepare a nice table with menu and well thought details like flowers or candles and we are being served. I love it !
CM: Could you please share with Croque-Maman one of your best family recipe and any story/comment related to it?
B: Happy to share my secret with Croque-Maman and funnily enough it is linked to your blog name :-)
My kids love the “Croque-Monsieur” or “Croque-Madame” with a simple salad. An amazing recipe that is very quick and delicious; grilled bread, lovely ham, grated cheese and an egg on top. Easy and always enjoyed!
Something that I always think about when I cook is a quote from the world famous cook, Paul Bocuse, “Le bonheur est dans la cuisine » translated as ‘Happiness is in the kitchen’. It’s so true!