For many years, Sonia Sieff has been living several lives. She is the daughter of iconic photographer Jeanloup Sieff and firstly belonged in the world of literature. Her current...
Paying visit to Carrie is like flying away from the doldrums of Faubourg Saint-Denis for a moment. A changing cosmopolitan neighbourhood, both noisy and vibrant. The food photographer, chef and author of best-sellers is aware about these attributes. This liveliness stimulates her. Carrie is an American from Michigan and she arrived in France ten years ago, with the desire to start a new adventure. A lot of encounters and books later – An American in Paris, Inside Chefs’ Fridges and Food with kids (her last one) -, there she is, smiling in this apartment in the 10th arrondissement of Paris. A space she wanted to be open on the interior courtyard, a kind of green patio, from where a radiating light is coming. To enhance it, she almost constantly uses the white colour. Almost as much as she uses glass, whose transparency is everywhere, from the small decorative objects to the glass wall between the living room and her bedroom. The succession of rooms, ode to the hygge, is more than this: the apartment is a whole. It seems obvious. Natural materials, warm skins, cosy and welcoming furniture: we understand why Carrie is proactive at home. Logical consequence: the woman who will soon manage the Coffee Parisien guides us to her kitchen. A functional space where she tries many things. Here spicy breadcrumbs, and there savoury granola. We drool over, try, and talk while drinking a cup of tea. Time flies, Carrie has a melodious accent. We are charmed.
Carrie, what’s your story?
I’m from the Midwest, Michigan to be exact. I grew up in a small town on the Big Lake. I arrived in Paris just after university, never with the intention to make my home here but it all happened quite naturally. I studied photography my first year in Paris. One of my professors gave me a great piece of advice, he said, “No one will ever call you. If you are going to make it happen, pick up the phone.” I took this to heart and with haphazard Franglais I called up all the magazines. I got lucky and managed to get a few gigs pretty quickly with Madame Figaro and Marie-Claire Maison. Since then, I have photographed over 20 cookbooks, including Inside Chefs’ Fridges, and written several cookbooks myself: Food avec les kids, Une Américaine à Paris. I also have been contributing to ELLE magazine and consulting.
You’re a photographer, a writer, a chef… What do you exactly do?
I rarely have two days that are the same. My days sometimes resemble a big jumble like this: In the morning I cook and take some photos for ELLE or for an upcoming cookbook, in the afternoon I go to the restaurant where I consult for a meeting and, at the end of the day, I write up the recipes that I made in the morning.
How did this idea of releasing you first book, An American in Paris, come up?
At the time, I was photographing a lot of cookbooks for other people, for chefs, for chocolatiers… One day my editor at La Martiniere called me and told me she had a new book for me, a book on American cooking. I said “well that certainly interests me, who is writing the book?”, she responded “I was thinking you would.”
In which room of your apartment do you spend the most time?
I’m back and forth between my kitchen and salon hundreds of times a day, or at least it feels that way. I cook and prepare recipes in my kitchen and then I shoot in my salon where there is really nice natural light. And when my kids are home, the salon becomes a crazy play room: they often create a sort of trampoline from the sofa or take over the table where I work with modelling clay.
Did you decorate the place?
I moved in just over 6 months ago, I haven’t had a lot of time to decorate so I decided to go with a light and white approach which suits me quite well. I have a hard time deciding what to put on the walls so I prefer to rotate prints on the floor or on the mantle.
Which colours and materials do you like to have in your home?
I adore hand-made textiles with a story, such as a big knit blanket my grandmother made me when I was 16 years old and a handmade pillow case cover from a friend that I converted into a seat cover. I like white and pale neutral colors as they reflect light. I like a big mix of materials in regards to my furniture: wood, metal, wicker things found on Leboncoin, Swedish style desks from flea markets. I have a few more precious textile pieces from Khadi and Co, Sarah Lavoine and Caravane.
Which elements are the most important to you in your apartment?
Light, volume and a practical kitchen are big on my list.
Is it easy to combine family life, the fact you’re working at home and a nice decoration?
I’m a big believer in all things washable: sofa covers, kids’ markers…. I also do most of the styling for my photos myself so I end up spending a fair amount of time in home stores and pick up small things here and there.
You’re soon going to redesign the menu of the Coffee Parisien, rue Princesse. Is there an exclusive recipe you’d like to share with us?
For he Green Caesar salad you need to first make the Caesar sauce: in a big bowl, mix 75g of grated Parmesan cheese, 75g of mayonnaise, 4 finely chopped anchovy fillets, ½ teaspoon of mustard, 5cL of lemon juice, ¼ finely chopped garlic clove, 2 egg yolks, 10 cL of olive oil, a pinch of salt. Blend it all in a hand blender and put the sauce in the fridge. Slice a bagel or a slide of bread very thinly. Pour a bit of oil in a bowl, salt and add the half finely chopped garlic clove. Mix delicately. Put it in the hoven for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare 200g of kale. Clean it, take off the central skin line, chop finely or mince the leaves, put them in a salad bowl, add a dash of olive oil, salt, a dash of lemon juice, and then beat it to make them soft and tasty. Mix it with 100g of sucrine and 200g of pak choi cut into strips. Add 200g of Caesar sauce, grated Parmesan cheese and croutons. Serve with slices of lemon.
Which food places do you love in Paris?
I love spending my lazy Sundays at Dersou, in the 12th arrondissement of Paris, for lunch. On weekdays, there is also Mokonuts, in the 11th. I go brunch any time I can at Coffee Club, in the 6th arrondissement. For food shopping, I go to Faubourg Saint-Denis (especially for the ethnic specially stores) and to rue du Nil for really great veg.
This year, where will you be?
I will be at Coffee Parisien in the rue Princesse as chef consultante, I write the cult “Fiches Cuisine” recipes for ELLE twice a month and I will also be contributing to the New York Times.
Photography : Constance Gennari – Text : Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily