Her story is the stuff that fairy tales are made of. It began with a photo of her “garden cake” and turned overnight into a book deal and cooking show. Mimi Thorisson and her seven children, twice as many dogs and Icelandic photographer husband, Oddur, are now known worldwide for their kitchen in the southwest of France.
This generous Eurasian beauty and natural businesswoman shares her passion for cooking in the intimate surroundings of her French farmhouse. She opens her doors wide to people who love food, good company and hands on learning. Next spring’s 3-4 day cooking workshops will also offer side lessons in stylized photography. And, it gets better – wine tasting for those who can’t get enough of the French countryside and vineyards.
INSPIRELLE caught up with this inspiring mother, wife and incomparable cooking sensation between her cooking classes, pop-up restaurant and book signing events.
Mimi, how does a career woman from urban Hong Kong end up in a small rural town in the southwest of France?
I wanted my kids to have the experience of growing up in the countryside. We stumbled upon pictures of this beautiful house in Médoc, so we decided to make the move. It was the perfect place for our ever-growing family of toddlers and terriers.
Would you say marriage and children influenced the direction of your life?
My husband and kids certainly directed me towards the country life and taught me not to dwell on unimportant things. Children teach you to see the world with a different perspective, to focus on the important things. I would say that my family’s unconditional support gave me the big push to pursue my cooking career. Besides, I had so many recipes from having fed so many hungry little mouths. So why not share them with the world through my blog?
Why did you choose to settle your family in the Médoc? Of all the regions in France, what appealed to you in this part of the country?
The diversity of the region. It’s a peninsula that has the best of everything, vineyards, forests, white beaches and castles.
Although you are half French, did you experience any culture shock moving to the French countryside?
Having always been a city girl, the spiders, the cobwebs and the dust came as quite a shock. But one I recovered from very quickly. The peace of the country life makes you forget about the insects.
Is it true that the turning point in your idyllic life was the photo of a magnificent “garden” cake you baked and posted on Instagram?
It was, in fact, the cake that started it all. One day I decided to bake the garden cake, a cake inspired from an Icelandic recipe, which my husband was kind enough to shoot with his iphone. I posted it on my blog, and little did I know that it would get my blog thousands of hits and become the beginning of my career in the food world.
Your blog “Manger” has a large popular following. What do you like to write about for your readers?
It’s a culinary diary, as well as a story of our lives here in the Médoc.
The blog lead to a beautiful recipe book, “A Kitchen in France: A Year of Cooking in My Farmhouse”, and subsequently a local cooking show and more! Are you still pinching yourself?
I’m still wrapping my head around it all. It happened so quickly.
What inspires you when you create a dish? Do you have something in mind or do ingredients motivate you to whip up a dish?
It’s a bit of both. I always try to stick to seasonal cooking and cook with ingredients from farmers around the region and vegetables from my own garden. The beauty of seasonal cooking is always having fresh food on your plate and dishes to look forward to. Tomatoes in summer, asparagus in spring and walnuts in the fall.
This summer, you began offering cooking classes at your farmhouse. What kind of cooking experience can students expect?
They will learn to cook seasonal family meals from vegetables that they pick from the market while getting a sneak peek into French food, lifestyle and let’s not forget that there will be lots of eating and of course wine.
You have turned the daily routine of cooking into a passion. What do you love most about being in the kitchen?
Freedom. I get to create anything I want with the best nature has to offer. I follow the season and play accordingly.
We have to ask about your fairy tale-like existence. How do you juggle all your work related activities with 7 children, lots of dogs and a husband all under one roof?
First of all the roof is a big one so the kids have enough space to run around in the house and everyone has their duties, taking care of dogs, watching the baby, gardening, emptying the dishwasher and somehow it all works.
Does Mimi Thorisson ever need time for herself?
Everyone does! Since the latest baby “me-time” comes rarely but when it does I like to sneak up to my rooftop, enjoy the view, the peacefulness and maybe a book. And if I’m feeling especially glamorous maybe a glass of pink champagne.
From your personal experience, is there any advice you can offer to women who move to France and can’t pursue their former careers but want to be active?
My best advice is to follow your dreams. Pursue your interests. There are so many interesting classes, university courses, seminars… I would simply explore a new passion!
What does Mimi want to do next?
Next up is the cookbook that I’m working on about my new house and the pop-up restaurant we opened this summer in our house. The book will come out in the Fall of 2016 and we are very excited to share our stories and the recipes. But what follows the book? Only time can tell. But I guarantee many more adventures.