All Photography © Christophe Roué
In our March/April 21 issue feature “Moments To Be Shared,” My French Country Home Magazine highlighted transatlantic Franco-American chef Héloïse Brion, who shared with us some exclusive recipes from her internationally celebrated cookbook: Miss Maggie’s Kitchen: Relaxed French Entertaining.
Read it below!
Cooking means family for Héloïse Brion, who knows first-hand the difference between the food culture in the U.S. and France, having grown up in both. In America, not everyone was always able to sit down to eat at the same time, but whenever she returned to the Hexagon, her mother insisted they gather daily to share long meals together, as is the French tradition.
Picture a family vacation to the Pyrénées-Orientales mountains set in a large, rustic mas (“country house”). No electricity meant all cooking was done over a wood-burning stove. Days were planned around mealtimes, at which 20 people could easily be present: from nearby neighbors to passing walkers to visiting friends, everyone was welcome. Peach jam, honey from her grandfather’s hives, freshly baked bread… the memory of each meal floats back to Héloïse like fragrant wafts from the kitchen fireside. The bustling creative process of making these meals also resonated with her; there was never just one chef but rather a team of commis pitching in to help. Cooking was social, convivial and for all ages.
Years later, nostalgia, travel and an eye for aesthetics kept Héloïse circling back to recreate her fond memories. After a bit of encouragement and a change of scenery, the stars finally aligned.
She and her husband Christophe wanted to raise their two boys, Gabin and Balthazar, on the same foundations of good food, outdoor pursuits and simple pleasures. They decided to search for a country setting that would promote this lifestyle and quickly fell for the charms of an old Norman hunting lodge. After christening it “Maggie” for its British dame-like demeanor, Héloïse left her 15-year career as a Communications Director for the French fashion brand, Gérard Darel, and fully dedicated herself to an exciting culinary adventure in her new home.
Héloïse created her brand in 2017, equipped with a well-thumbed book of her family’s recipes and the perfect space in which to bring them to life. She began, as food bloggers often do, by regularly publishing on her website. This then transformed into publishing four online journals over the course of the year, each featuring around 10 seasonal recipes and a cocktail. Naturally, her authenticity, talent and infectious bon humeur (“cheerful mood”) attracted the attention of her peers. Fashion, food and beauty brands — CHANEL, Veuve Clicquot, Nuxe and Sézane — requested her expertise for launch parties and campaigns, and a book deal soon followed. Miss Maggie’s Kitchen, recently released in English, is an entry into Héloïse’s special world that brings family and seasonal produce back to the heart of cooking.
Meals integrate her Franco-American culture with a decidedly French country backdrop. Childhood classics like peanut butter cookies and apple cider donuts sit along French staples such as marinated côte de bœuf and a peach and rosemary galette (“tart”). Dishes use everyday ingredients and are technically easy to make, and each gets approved by her children.
After 20 years of living in Paris, Héloïse and Christophe made the move from town to country permanent, and Héloïse has decorated the Calvados house in a way that befits her brand. Country, homey and open to all, the dining space features long, wooden tables covered in checkered linen, vintage cutlery, hand-blown glasses and water carafes and crockery from the local village brocante. Oil paintings, seashells from trips to nearby Trouville-sur-Mer and a smattering of fresh flowers keep the kitchen a relaxed space to spend time. In the summer, it is al fresco dining on the lawn; in winter, meals are served in front of the kitchen stove or the fire in the dining room. Together, Héloïse and Maggie have created an environment that beautifully recalls those unique memories that started in the peaks of the Pyrénées.
Photography by Christophe Roué
This text originally appeared in the Mar/Apr 21 issue of My French Country Home Magazine