Whenever we're in need of a wintertime oasis, we turn to Maman — a charming French-inspired eatery located in our beloved neighborhood of Nolita. At the helm of this cozy refuge is Elisa Marshall, whose affinity for local makers combined with her romantic aesthetic has created an inspiring space for city dwellers to gather, dine, and shop with ease. On a blustery winter day, we enjoyed this warmth firsthand while sipping hot coffee and sampling freshly baked pastries at the cafe's adjoining concept shop, Marché Maman. As Elisa assembled a dried flower arrangement amidst a beautiful tablescape for an upcoming meeting, we spoke with her about French culture, wintertime rituals, and forever items.
I am a lover of beautiful things, so I started off studying fashion, starting in design and then moving towards more of the business side of things; everything from marketing and branding to merchandising and store design. I was then drawn into fashion PR and events, which I loved. After hosting and working on many branding events and really enjoying it, I tried out personal events, which quickly became a passion of mine and somewhere I could also incorporate my other love… baking!
From weddings to birthdays, I loved planning more intimate occasions and celebrating people as opposed to "things." Before we opened Maman, I felt that I was doing a little bit of everything but nothing wholeheartedly, so from a personal standpoint, I wanted to create a world and job for myself where I could combine all of the things I love: food, baking, coffee, design, events, friends, family, and the man I love. It’s selfish thinking about it now, but that said, I really felt that there wasn’t a space that encompassing all of those things. Many coffee shops and cafes were very trendy and hipster but didn’t have a warm, home-like atmosphere — something people love, know, and can relate to. I wanted to create a home away from home, especially in a city where most people do not feel at home. For a quick meal or an intimate event, you’re surrounded by beautiful but also familiar things that make you want to stay awhile and come back often.
Maman's Commitment to Slow Food
With Maman, we really emphasize promoting slow food and its lifestyle and are big advocates of the culture shift of slowing down life’s pace — especially in a city like New York. We really believe in going back to your roots when it comes to eating, cooking and dining, and pull inspiration from how our "maman" grew up. This is not only with regard to food but also in our aesthetic as we like to encourage people to enjoy the little things. From the beauty of our cups to our signage, in a city like New York, we aim to counteract fast food and fast lifestyle by offering a warm and welcoming environment encouraging our guests to gather around the table and stay awhile.
On French Culture
A large part and influence of our French culture within Maman stems from my husband's origins. He is from Montpellier in the South of France where we often vacation. When it comes to dining, I am always inspired by how France is still a country where eating is seen as pleasure rather than just giving the body what it needs to get through the day. Days are spent planning the meal, shopping for meals, and preparing and enjoying together as a family. Togetherness is also not just for families, but for work colleagues too. And coming around the table enjoying a good meal and bottle of wine is a regular practice and routine (at least twice a day) which is quickly fading in our culture. They put a focus on togetherness and quality over quantity. Apart from food, France also defines beauty, from its architecture and landscapes to its fashion and men (hah)! France has a certain "je ne sais quoi" that we all need a little bit more of here in NYC.
While many dread the winter, I love it and much prefer the colder months over the summer. To me, it’s a time to celebrate warmth and coziness, and I love bundling up in a chunky scarf, big sweaters, and great boots. Despite my love for the cold, we are often spending more time indoors, which always leads to more cooking and baking! A tradition we have and go-to for home entertaining is always making a fondue (and more often than I should be eating it). Something about a snowy cold night in NYC pairs perfectly with a glass of wine and melty, gooey cheese!
What "modern minimalism" means to Elisa - I would define this as "current essentials." Just what you need, without additional excess.
How Elisa will style her Coclico boots in her winter uniform - They are so versatile, and such great classics, so they can be so simply styled alongside so many great outfits. Because I am always on the go and on my feet during the day, I opt for a great pair of flats, and in the NYC weather, it needs to be a pair of boots. I love the no laces and character they have as they can be dressed up or down, depending on how you style them. My current go-to obsession when it comes to clothes are jumpsuits, and these boots match perfectly with the many I have.
Elisa's intentions for 2019 - My resolution for the year is to take one hour each day for myself and to do something I love. A little more me, a little less work. From a long walk to staying in bed with a face mask on to even staying up late doing arts and crafts, I need to make more time to do the things that I love, but that always gets pushed aside.
For me, all of our plates are stories disguised as objects. We hand pick and source all of our vintage flatware, and although it may just be a basic plate to whoever is dining on it, each one has an extensive story. We travel and antique often always collecting blue and white china (they break faster than I can buy them!), some so much so, that I actually recall crying when my staff would break one. I have a set of bowls in use at our Soho location that we picked up at a flea market on vacation in Ibiza, a set from Ben’s grandmother’s china cabinet in France that I smuggled over in my suitcase, mugs that my aunt found at a consignment store in Florida, and so on. Every piece has a story!
Photos by Sara Kerens for Coclico