One of my favorite parts of being a blogger is meeting amazing movers and shakers.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting one such shaker, Jennifer Eric, at her Parisian plant-based restaurant, My Kitch’n. Behind Jennifer’s sweet smile and agreeable demeanor is a firecracker of a girl with a passion for life, food, and France. Jennifer is more than just a restauranteur — she’s an activist, author, and advocate for healthier and happier living, and talking with her is more inspiring than reading a Wayne Dyer book.
So, Jennifer, you’re from Sweden! I have Norwegian origins so this delights me. What’s your story? Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where you grew up and your beginnings?
Yes, I have a Swedish passport but my mother is from what was then Yugoslavia and my father from Finland. I moved to LA when I was 16, finished high school and did my B.A. there. I started out as a Fine Arts major and ended up with a B.A. in political science, intending to go to law school.
I’m from LA! Sort of! (I lived there for around eight years, anyway.) What did you think of LA? What are some of the most flagrant differences you notice between LA and Paris?
Wow, night and day. I think that the two cities are polar opposites. Whatever you find comfortably in LA is a hassle to find here, and whatever you gotta love about Paris is lacking over there. It was a HUGE readjustment to move back to Europe and particularly to Paris after LA. I loved living there! But those were the good years for the States; the dollar was strong, so was the economy and there was a sense of untouchability and extraordinary optimism. Everything was possible and nothing bad could happen. I worked so hard there but don’t remember ever being tired. Most flagrant difference… well, I miss seeing my toes. I love open-toe heels. I met some amazing people there, too, and we are still in touch! But I went back 2006-2007 and it was not the same. Or maybe I’ve just grown up since then . I prefer Paris.
Indeed. Why do you prefer Paris?
I love Paris, passionately so. And as with most passions, my love for this city is extremely irrational. It is too cold for me, apartments are too old and too small, streets are too busy… But here I am allowed to read what I want, think what I want, and state my opinion. I did my B.A. before YouTube, Amazon etc. When I arrived in Paris, late 2001, I had a long list of books I had heard of and wanted to read but couldn’t find in the US at the time (notably everything Chomsky.) Here, I found ALL the books, right away — in French AND English (Shakespeare & Co. bookshop! Love that place!)
I love Shakespeare & Co. So let’s talk about My Kitch’n, which is an entirely plant-based restaurant with no soy, gluten, dairy, refined sugar, or anything else deleterious. How did you come to love whole, plant-based foods?
When I was a child I wasn’t really allowed to eat candy. I think my brother and I had enough energy, no sugar rush needed. When we wanted sweets or a treat we got a fresh fruit platter and peeled carrots. Down that road it is. Childhood eating habits are extremely important, I am living proof of that!
Can you tell us how My Kitch’n came about, and what you stand for?
Oh la la, long story. So long in fact, that right before I opened, I wrote a book about it. Most of my friends thought I was crazy, leaving the good life I had in Dubai to come back here and do this. But now that it is up and running (as opposed to an intangible idea in my head,) they understand. I’ve found my path, my passion, and I’ve turned it into my daily bread, literally. How lucky am I! I quote Seneca on the first page of the book, which sums up in one sentence what My Kitch’n is all about: “I criticize by creation, not by finding fault.”
Wait, Dubai? What were you doing in Dubai?
I opened an über chic martini bar for a friend in their hotel. I hired only girls as waitresses and bartenders (as bar tending is a predominantly male profession I trained them from scratch), they worked in black cocktail dresses and heels. They all looked like Bond girls and everyone was expecting Mr. Bond to walk in any minute for his shaken not stirred Vesper Martini.
Ha! Excellent. So what’s this about a book!?
The book will soon have a new outfit. I wrote it while we were renovating. I didn’t have the finished logo yet and our slogan (which is the final title) wasn’t trademarked:“Re-belle toi de l’intérieur; change de carburant.” I wrote it to answer questions and offer explanations, collectively, in one place, instead of repeating the same things over and over. It is a resource for those who ask questions, and also for those who want to hear none of it in a conversation, but that are still curious. Every time I read a bad article or hear something negative with no grounds in the media, I tend to send them a copy. When people are in the dark, it is your duty to light a candle! The major aim with the book is to get people thinking about food myths, their environment, the constant brainwash we are subjected to and, most importantly, what we are putting into our bodies on a daily basis. Food is fuel and, collectively, we are very unhealthy. Cancer is scary, and the root of this evil is not commonly discussed, though it is clearly linked to our new (last 40-50 years) eating habits and other recreational habits, body care products, and lifestyle choices. A lot of people are deprived of feeling good in their own bodies (the only home you will ever have), and this is completely reversible; all it takes is discipline. I want the book to open a dialogue. I bring up several valid reasons to make the switch to a plant based diet: animal rights, ecology, health etc etc. It is not judgmental — I am not accusing anyone of anything — just explaining that there are better options out there. A path to a healthier, happier life for you, the planet and all its inhabitants.
What are your hopes and plans for My Kitch’n?
Introducing accessible, delicious vegan food in omnivore environments, one Parisian neighborhood at a time. There is so much to be done… the plans for growth and expansion get new building blocks weekly! It’s what keeps me going! Right now it is hard, the beginning always is. Like a good friend said, “Right now you are pushing that big snowball up the hill.” I just have to make sure to have enough energy to push it all the way to the top, then it will grow bigger on its own. And not roll over me on its way back down.
There has been some resistance to plant based diets recently in the French media, such as the recent Canal+ blasphemy portraying this type of eating regime in a bad light. Why do you think this is? Is it all about money and business?
Well, what can I say… I haven’t had a TV for years. What’s the point? It is a useless brainwashing business to distract, scare, depress, isolate and disinform us. Advertising is big business, and big business usually means little to no scruples. Who advertises on Canal+? A combination of banks, dairy companies, and pharmaceutical companies, I’m sure. Capitalism as we know it is not a sustainable business model, so they need a direct channel into all our homes, to tell us what we need to buy and how we should think.
What can plant-eaters do to enlighten others?
It is our duty to communicate… be brave vegan soldiers! Hold a dialogue, educate, inform, repeat yourself relentlessly. Be patient. Don’t be afraid of the mockery. Try not to accuse and alienate people — be kind! Most importantly, educate yourself so you can give an informed opinion that will be very hard to dismiss. Argue your case like a lawyer in court. Answer all criticism — which is usually punches thrown in the dark — by lighting a candle (i.e. introducing a new idea). Canal+ brought it up in a very uninformed and ignorant way, and when this happens, write letters, make phone calls, keep the dialogue going! As Andy Warhol said, “Don’t mind what they write about you, just measure it in inches.” And, as we say in LA: “haters make you famous”! Because they are the ones who just can’t stop talking about you! And as we all know, there is a very fine line between love and hate. With patience, educated answers, and a dash of charm, everything is possible!
I totally know what you mean. I got a lot of “haters” for my Gangster’s Paradise video, which, in the end, I kind of loved. (I have over 13,000 views!) So, tell us… you’re a woman with a fiery passion (I love it.) What inspires you?
Oh la la… Many things! Friends, pioneers, people who speak their mind whatever the consequences, music, art, books, sports… I love speeches by strong, independent and empowering women. I love Isabel Allende — I have since I was a kid. Ron Finley, the renegade gardener from South Central LA, is great. So is the Green Bronx Machine initiative, that’s fantastic! Young people going back to our roots: farming and gardening. And last but not least, I have a secret weapon for inspiration. Whenever I am out of it, or I just lack creativity in general for a task at hand, there is always Michael Jackson! There is a clip in particular I really love: MJ performing Dangerous live at the MTV Music Awards, 1995, I believe. He was extraordinarily gifted; a musical genius, a perfectionist, so dramatic, such a great performer. He had an unbelievably creative mind. I watch that clip over and over, until I know exactly what I need to do.
Michael Jackson is one of my feel good cures! I knew you were awesome.
So, I’m into lists, so can we a have a list of your favorite places in Paris?
Could you give my readers a couple of suggestions for easy ways to healthify their lives?
- Stop smoking.
- Have a green smoothie every morning! With as many leafy greens as you can handle (kale, spinach, parsley, mint…), some superfood powders (wheatgrass, spirulina,) and a fruit or two (apple, pear or banana). For the winter season, throw some fresh ginger and lime in there, too.
- Cut down on coffee and other stimulants that only excite you and make you more tired, they are not a cure for fatigue.
- Get enough sleep! That’s very important; sleep is very underestimated.
- Use organic beauty products; stay away from parabens and other shelf life extending chemicals in your beauty products, they are carcinogens. Coconut oil is amazing for anything from lip balm to conditioner to body lotion.
- Stay away from sodas and junk food like the plague, and drink lots of water.
- And work out! Sweat! Dance a lot, smile a lot, and kiss a lot.
So many thanks to Jennifer at My Kitch’n for the marvelous pep talk and insight!
If you’re in Paris, make sure to stop by My Kitch’n, at Marché Couvert des Batignolles, Tues.- Sun. for smoothies, green juice, teas, and, of course, revitalizing food and conversation. (Find Jennifer and My Kitch’n on FB, Instagram, and Twitter.)
Here’s to yummy wellness!
P.S. And thanks to Jennifer for the best vegan burger ever! (It was SO good. There was like… beet ketchup. Mmmmm.)
P.S.S. Have you liked City of Annie on FB yet?