This month we caught up with French baker and chef, Manon Lagrève. We talk about her love for food, the industry and her journey into motherhood.
You were raised on a French egg farm, surrounded by a family of restaurateurs. Has working with food always been your end goal?
“I knew that I will have my own business one day! At first, having my own little coffee shop was my goal, but thanks to social media, I am able to create and share my recipes and passion directly for free to my followers. I didn't really realise how lucky I had been to grow up in such a wholesome environment, and the skills I learnt thanks to my family.”
How does cooking make you feel?
“Baking always thrills me! I am still today, ecstatically happy when my Choux pastry has risen, or my cake looks incredible and taste divine. I love the fact it is relatively accessible to bake, and with some eggs, sugar, butter and flour, you can create many things. Cooking I love too, but daily, it is mostly a necessity. I often push myself to be creative and invent a recipe, rather than giving my brain some headspace and just follow one! I enjoy it so much more when I am cooking for more people, or surrounded by friends or family.”
You’ve previously said people are disconnected from their food. What can we do to encourage a greater connection, both individually, and collectively, with our food?
“Oh they are, especially in the cities, where you cannot see farm lands or where produces are coming from. I think it is a very big societal issue, which of course correlates with climate change, and that we could easily resolved with the knowledge we have available. You see, I grew up playing with the chickens at my grandma's farm, knowing we'll kill one of them for dinner. I'd help grandma to pluck it and watch her how she'd empty it from its blood. Does it sound gruesome? Well it shouldn't, because I am pretty sure if people thought about that before buying their packaged neat chicken breast, they'd have more respect for it. Meat is still too cheap and too available. We shy away from explaining to children or adults how cattle is farmed, or how you go from a beef to a steak. Again, my first summer job was at the butcher, I walked daily in between carcasses, and that made me respect these big beautiful beast from a very young age. Realistically, the world is not going to go vegan or vegetarian (both diet marginally "better" for the planet, but it is not black and white, far from it) so it is about educating the new generations, come back to eating the seasons, eating smaller amount of respectfully farmed meat and fish. And simply cooking more at home.”
What would you change in the food industry if you could?
“Phew a big loaded question! I am lucky to have some perspective thank you my parent's farm. My brother has now joined the business and they now have 40,000 chickens, which sounds a lot, but it is a very small family business, with them selling their own brand, daily to boulangeries, butchers, deli’s, supermarkets and some local big supermarkets. I guess there is the consumer, the producer, then all of the in between, which is often where the disconnect is and who makes the most money. Having more direct producers selling to consumer, at a market price, so everyone benefit from it, would be ideal. France is far from perfect, but we are better at it. You can go to any big supermarket in France, you will find local brands, local seasonal fruits and veg, every shops offers different things, supporting the local farmers and food producers. In England, I am often baffled to see the exact same product everywhere, with very little local brands and mostly supermarket brands. Again, knowledge, education, transparency, legislations, there is a lot to be done, but it change needs to come from the people.”
How has becoming a parent changed your life? What have even the biggest challenges, and the biggest rewards?
“I always knew I wanted to be a mum, which was very lucky! It is a big rollercoaster, but I absolutely love being Fleur's Mother. It makes me want to be a better person. I read a lot about children’s psychology (especially about attachment) and both my husband and I know the importance of showing her healthy relationship values, how to be ok with emotions and simply how to be happy. Being a parent (just like being a committed wife/partner) is the hardest job in the world, you have to constantly work at it, learn, try, fail, but mostly just take it in and surrender. We live in a society where still, perfection and happiness is the ultimate goal, but no one is perfect or always happy. It is all the things in between that make it worth it. I love giving her new things to eat, she has already tried every fruit and vegetable we can find in Europe, or when we travel. It is beautiful to see such a clever innocent little thing grow and discover the world. It taught me to slow down, and focus on what was important. Raising her and being her mum is my number one priority right now. They grow so fast and I have the luxury to be able to be there for her. I still of course have my me time, our couple time, which is important, but I have a lot of mum time. When has it become uncool to just want to be a mum? We are superstars.”
Malene wears the Cameron Lace Underwire Bra with matching Knicker, the Sia Embroidery Underwire Bra with matching High Waist Knicker and the Raven Lace Balconette Bra and matching Knicker, all in a size 34B and UK10.
Find Manon here.
Photos courtesy of Sarah Mikaela.