Interview: Beatrice Peltre of La Tartine Gourmande
The triple threat is so passé. Want proof? Look no further than Béatrice Peltre, food stylist, photographer, blogger, journalist, and now, cookbook author. I’d call her a quintuple threat, but it’s not as catchy—and the truth is, it wouldn’t be accurate anyway; her talents exceed the editorially allowable number of hyphens it would take to list them all.
Béa’s award-winning blog, La Tartine Gourmande, has been praised by The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and Saveur, among others. Design Sponge called the French expat a one-woman wonder, and with good reason: she’s a singular force in the food blogosphere. She does it all, extremely well, and yet everything she touches seems utterly effortless. It’s the mark of artistry, passion and true talent.
Bea’s new cookbook, La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for An Inspired Life, hits stores in February, but you can pre-order it from La Tartine Gourmande starting in October.
An inspired life, indeed.
What is your earliest memory involving food?
It happened when I was four or so and I helped my aunt and my mother in the garden, to pick strawberries and peas. Everyone in my family back in France owns a vegetable garden. My grandparents were also farmers with fields, fruit trees and animals, so I spent a lot of time playing in this beautiful natural surrounding conducive to homegrown foods.
To many of your passionate fans and followers, it seems like you’re living the dream: making a living and traveling the globe as a food writer, stylist and photographer. What do you love most about what you do?
That I am able to express my creativity and love for beautiful food, and share it through my words and pictures. It’s as if my blog were a journal, a log of my favorite things: cook, style, photograph food, and write about it.
What advice would you give to food bloggers who aspire to parlay blogging into career opportunities?
Find your voice. Be passionate about what you do. Work hard at it. I am a self-taught stylist and photographer. Before starting, I didn’t know I had “it” in me.
What do you hope to attain that you haven’t yet, professionally speaking?
Be better at the business side. I love to create. I am not so good at promoting.
What’s your day-to-day life like now?
Naturally, I start the day by looking after our two-and-a-half-year-old daughter. It starts with making a nutritious breakfast for us. Often, fresh muesli with grated apple, berries and toasted nuts. Then I either go to the market to buy produce, and decide what I will cook, style and photograph. I try to find the balance between my own projects and taking pictures for clients. Then, there’s always lunch and dinner that I make, too. I don’t eat out as often these days. Needless to say that this means that there’s never a shortage of home food chez nous.
Tell us about your process for La Tartine Gourmande.
Obviously, I could decide to write about everything I cook and eat, but that’s really not the point. Besides, I cook so much that it would be practically impossible. The stories I decide to tell revolve around a moment I want to remember. Something that makes me reflect on an event. It could be a picnic at the beach; friends coming over for dinner; Lulu eating a crêpe next to me while I am making a stack of them; a visit to the farm. These are the places where I find my visual inspiration. The rest follows.
How do you come up with your original recipes?
The first sense that boosts my creative side is visual. So sometimes it’s a photo of food that inspires me. Often it’s the surrounding where I find myself. When I am in France, I notice that my food inspiration changes. I am inspired by the seasons, too. In a very natural way.
I love the way you organize your posts into a recipe index! It makes it so easy to browse and explore your blog. Are you that organized in other aspects of your life? Any organizational tips for bloggers and other creative multi-hyphenates in the foodosphere?
It depends. I can be completely organized. And then completely disorganized. Let’s say that I am organized in areas where I am interested.
Tell us about the cookbook you’re working on.
It involves many hours of testing food. Many years of gathering ideas in notebooks that I later translate into the computer. I always work with a scale, tape measure and laptop in the kitchen. To make notes of everything I do.
What have you learned since you launched La Tartine Gourmande?
To become a food writer. And of course, I’ve learned to become a stylist and photographer. It’s an achievement in itself for me since I am completely self-taught.
Who are some food bloggers you admire and why?
I think Molly from Orangette is a fantastic writer. And so is Shauna from Gluten-Free Girl and The Chef. Rick from À la Mode is a talented photographer. Vanille from At Down Under is another talented photographer. There are a lot of fabulous food bloggers with different set of skills, so it’s really hard to make just a short list.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
Not sure. That I don’t drink coffee and I am French? That at first, I thought I could not do something if I had not gone to school to learn it. A very French way to look at things. This is unfortunately what the French educational system influences students to believe.
Has anything changed for you, in terms of cooking and eating, since you became a mother?
Of course. We still eat the same foods since they are the foods I want Lulu to learn about. But I would say, like many mothers to young toddlers, that I have less time to prepare certain dishes. It will come back. It is just not happening now because my hands are full with the reality of looking after an active young toddler.
What’s a typical day of eating like for you?
Fresh apple juice, fresh muesli with fruits and nuts in the morning, with green tea and toast—I love to spread avocado and feta on top. Then at lunch, a vegetable tart with salad and soup, a chocolate cake, and a fruit tart or clafoutis. A risotto with seafood and baked apricots with coconut milk and lime juice for dinner.
What’s something you haven’t tried yet but want to?
I own Thomas Keller’s French Laundry Cookbook, amongst many others. There are dishes inside his cookbook I’ve bookmarked for a long time. Never got to actually making them yet.
Tell us about a few spots that stand out in your extensive travels as particularly memorable dining destinations.
Australia and New Zealand, where I lived. Denmark. And many areas in France, like more recently Belle-Ile-en-Mer on the West coast of France.
Speaking of that: favorite dining destinations in Boston and beyond?
I’ve had lovely meals at Radius and Clio in Boston. Love Upstairs on the Square in Cambridge or Ten Tables in Jamaica Plain. And then, my utter favorite place remains Noma in Copenhagen. And Ze Kitchen Gallery in Paris. L’Ecluse 16 close to my home village.
Your final meal: who, what, where?
My close family. In a beautiful natural surrounding. France, Ireland (where my husband is from) or New Zealand. Simple. A dish using coconut milk, coriander and lime, with a black rice, seafood and delicate vegetables, mâche salad from my mother’s garden, fresh fraises des bois and a dessert with chocolate.
What’s next for you?
I hope that there will be more cookbooks, of course. There are also a number of other projects and ideas that I am working on right now. And that I will always feel inspired to cook, style and photograph in the same way as I do today.
P.S. To keep up on all things La Tartine Gourmande, subscribe via RSS or newsletter, or find Bea on Twitter. Ready for some food porn? I suggest having a snack handy: Bea’s food photos will make you want to lick your screen.
Do you read food blogs for recipes or eating inspiration? Besides La Tartine Gourmande (of course!), which ones are on your daily reading list?