Shirley, Mathieu: Could you introduce yourselves, please?
We are both self-taught photographers. Shirley has also learned to cook on her own, without any specific training. We are passionate about natural light, and we are the creators of The Social Food studio. We met when we were 14 years old and have never been apart.
What was your education taste-wise?
We both come from the south of France, from Perpignan. There, all meetings between friends and family centre around the kitchen. There are lots of extremely good local products available in the surrounding area. We used to shop with the local producers, not at the supermarket! We cultivated our sense of the finer things in life in several ways: through our respective studies, but also through our curiosity. We didn’t have access to culture like people who live in a big city such as Paris. We really had to look further afield to be on the same level as everyone else. That’s what we tried to do, and that’s what defined our style!
For those who don’t know, what is The Social Food?
It’s a creative studio that works around the world and the image of the kitchen. The result is an Instagram account that highlights each day what the key players in the food world are doing, together with recipes inspired by our travels, our childhoods and our experiences.
When – and how – did you create this second identity?
The Social Food was born a few years ago after a trip to London when we realised that restaurants there were much better promoted on social networks than those in Paris, for example. So we wanted to offer the same thing to Parisian restaurant owners.
Why this name?
Because it encompasses our whole world.
Who does what in your duo?
We are both photographers. And then, Shirley cooks, and Mathieu is passionate about mixology.
We often see you ‘on stage’ in your kitchen. Which other room do you like best for working if it’s not in this one?
In the bedroom, in our bed, with Kiwi (our cat).
In Perpignan, where we come from, all meetings between friends and family are centred around the kitchen. There are lots of extremely good local products available in the surrounding area. We used to shop with the local producers, not at the supermarket!
How does your interior represent you and your way of life?
Our home is relatively sparse, we don’t spend much time decorating it. We have a lot of useful objects which we use every day, and which end up being the decoration of our interior in themselves.
Which are your five “reference” books, the ones that inspire you and that we will find on your bookshelves?
Four books on Japanese cooking techniques, “Mukoita” published by Shuhari and a book on Catalan cuisine rather soberly entitled La Cuisine Catalane by Eliane Thibaut Comelade (2 volumes).
You travel a lot. Which country has made the biggest impression on you?
Japan, culturally and in terms of food and drink. And Vietnam, the land of my ancestors, which was a direct echo of the Asian education I received in France. Going back there was a real culture shock.
Was it after a trip that you decided to launch your own sauce, Matshi?
No, actually we’ve always wanted to make chilli sauce, ever since we were old enough to eat chilli! It’s an ingredient that has an important place in my family. It was even a kind of challenge between us to eat as spicily as we could without shedding a tear. When I arrived in Paris, I missed the spicy sauces my mother used to make for me. There was no equivalent, so we decided to make our own. Given its popularity with our family and friends, we decided we were going to create Matshi.
How do you design it each time?
The chilli pepper doesn’t change, its always yellow habanero (our favourite chilli pepper) and there’s always a fruit goes with it to sweeten it. When we select the fruit, we tend to rely on the stocks available from our producers. We work together on the selection so that it makes sense and so that they have the necessary quantities.
Apart from that, what products are we likely to find in your cupboards and in your fridge?
Nuoc mam, soy sauce, several olive oils, Thai and Japanese rice, eggs.
You’ve just brought out your first book “The Social Food, Carnet de Recette à la Maison”, which is a compilation of all those recipes you cooked during the first lockdown. Which one is your favourite?
The pork with caramel.
Shirley’s mother’s pork ribs.
Your preparations are always the result of the way you are thinking as you are doing your daily shopping. Can you give us your favourite addresses?
Umami for Japanese products. Poissons for the fish. China Store for Chinese groceries. Myiam for all our vegetables, honey and dairy products. Terroir d’Avenir for everything else. And we also like to take a stroll in the Belleville district or in the Opera district, Rue Sainte-Anne.
Where will we find you in the coming months?
At all the local booksellers looking for our first book, The Social Food, Carnet de Recette à la Maison. We’re also working on a collaboration with a major Parisian concept-store at the moment. Watch this space!
Photography: Valerio Gerani – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily