Return to Pain et Chocolat
"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."
- William James
It's funny and wonderful, how things come full circle.
Just shy of a year ago, I blogged about a delightful Salon de The located not too far from our Paris apartment (Pain et Chocolat). A short review...
Pain et Chocolat (Bread and Chocolate) is owned and run by Parisians Kathy and Claude Micheli. Three years ago, after 23 years of owning and running a restaurant, they sold everything and retired to the south of France. Well, they didn't make it a year - they realized that they could not give up what made them most happy. They returned to Paris, bought the building at 16 avenue La Motte Piquet, 7th, gutted it and renovated it.
Under the supervision and interior design talents of Madame Kathy, the results where spectacular - a mix of Old World romance and contemporary chic. Of course the best parts of Pain et Chocolat were Madame Kathy's amazing cooking and baking, Monsieur Claude's calm gentlemanly service, and the warm comfortable and intimate experience of this salon de the.
I was instantly smitten. This tiny, elegant, friendly neighborhood place was, to me, the epitome of Old World Paris. My 2010 trip to Paris was a family affair, of course. But it was also my opportunity to realize a long held dream of mine - to photograph and write about my beloved Paris, as I see 'Her.' I had no idea how I would accomplish this, or who would publish it, or if anyone would even be interested in publishing it! But, during that first visit to Pain et Chocolat, I knew what my first subject would be...
In my broken French (thank goodness that Peter was there to help), I asked Madame Kathy if she would be willing to let a fledgling photographer and travel writer interview her and photograph her enchanting salon de the with no guarantee that what I produced would ever be published. She said yes before I had finished asking my question (of course she speaks English much better than I speak French!) Her only caveat was that I return the next morning at 7 a.m. when her bakery display was full of her fresh baked confections.
I returned to the little nook I had created in our apartment, and started writing questions to ask. Coco helped of course ;-) Early the next morning, with Peter and Coco in tow, I returned and spent an hour or so 'shooting' to my heart's delight. And, in between cooking, Madame Kathy sat with me and answered all of my questions.
As soon as I returned State's side, I 'developed' my photographs, wrote my article and sent it to my favorite magazine - Romantic Homes. And they published it! As soon as it hit the newsstands, I purchased a dozen copies and sent one to Madame et Monsieur Micheli; along with a letter and my contact information. I never heard back from them.
On the 2nd day of this trip, Peter, Coco and I returned to Pain et Chocolat. The place was filled, inside and out. I wondered if Madame et Monsieur got my package, if they even remembered me. We sat outside, Monsieur Claude came and got our order (a half bottle of white) and went back inside. When he returned with our drinks, I mustered up the nerve to ask him if he remembered me. Monsieur Claude gave me a gentle smile and said: "Of course I remember you!" He then took me by the hand and led me to the far side of their front window - in that window was Romantic Homes, opened up to my article, on display for all to see. While I stood there agape, he went inside and got Madame Kathy. She came out and hugged and kissed Peter and I - welcoming us as old friends. We were, quite simply shocked.
Pain et Chocolat, 2011
Every seat filled - WOW!
Madame Kathy told us that, a few days after my article was published, people started coming in - then more and more people. She told me that ever since then they've been filled to capacity most days of the week. She told me that up until today, Americans who come in specifically say that my article led them to their doorstep. Madame Kathy said that she could never thank me enough for all I've done for her and Claude. Again I was speechless (which is saying a lot if you know me). By that point, she had to rush back into her kitchen - people to feed. Peter and I sat back down, drank some more of their delicious house wine and just took in the scene around us - the hustle bustle, WOW!
As before, I returned to Pain et Chocolat often. And everytime I did it was PACKED. There were people waiting at the door for tables to open up, at a salon de the! Of course, the Micheli's amazing food, impeccable service, and cozy place deserve all of the credit for their success.
Monsieur Claude working it!
Chicken Breast stuffed w/ Spinach with an Eggplant & Tomato Gratin
Poached White Fish with Zuchinni Gratin
Duck Leg & Thigh with sinfully creamy Potatoes Gratin
Fruit Crumble (served pipin' hot)
Apple Tart Crumble
Madame Kathy with my 3
Still, it's pretty awesome to know that something I did changed someone's life for the better. I'm planning my next trip for this winter and I can't wait to have some of Madames rich, thick and creamy hot vegetable soup! When you're next in Paris, stop by and please tell the Micheli's that I said bonjour
Vivre! Rire! Aimer!
(Standing next to my magazine article in Pain et Chocolat's window, next to my right facing elbow)