Emilie, what kind of little muse are you?
I’m Émilie Aubriot Chavialle, 32 years old and completely new to this from September last year. I love interior design. My father is an architect and taught me how to select colours and materials that add value to a space, experimenting with
fabrics and textured wallpaper to cover a wall and, above all, working with light to create a warm environment. I love family meals, sharing good food with friends and everything that goes with cooking. For example, going shopping at the market (my favourite is at Loches in Touraine), cooking while sipping a glass of wine with my husband, laying the dining table so it looks lovely, carving a chicken so you don’t leave any meat on the bones, talking about the next menu while eating dinner… I have no limits when it comes to cooking. I love the autumn colours and reading next to the open fire. Madrid is one of my favourite cities and I lived there for 2 years. I dream of going back there one day as the ambiance is totally unique. I love to paint and would really like to improve my skills.
Where do you live?
I live in Amsterdam in the south, behind the museums and right next to Vondelpark. The buildings are amazing in this very upscale district, which has traditional local architecture (beautiful porches, high windows, stained glass windows). The shops are rather expensive so we do our shopping in the market to the east of Amsterdam.
How did you come to be here?
I came to live in Amsterdam when I followed my husband who found work here. He didn’t twist my arm, in fact, I encouraged him to accept the job. We were living inParis and had just returned from 5 months of travelling through South America. Wefelt like we were suffocating in Paris and had been looking to relocate abroad.
Had you lived abroad before?
I’d lived in Madrid as I was studying there.How long have you been an expatriate?
How long have you been an expat?
We’ve been in Amsterdam for 18 months. We were instantly bowled over by the city, the fact you can go everywhere by bike, the charming canals, the cosmopolitan atmosphere…sometimes we miss the excitement of the first months of summer when we first came to live here as everything is so fresh and beautiful. The downside is that we don’t speak Dutch (shame on us) but we’ve adapted really well to our new life.
You’ve developed a project based on cooking: where did the idea for this come from?
After a few months of living in Amsterdam, I decided to abandon my career as a lawyer and dedicate myself to what I love, cooking for other people. After looking at several existing setup models here, I decided to open a catering service specialising in French cooking. While I had been shying away from climbing on stage in France, I flung myself into this project in just a few weeks and “My Little Amsterdam Kitchen” was born.
How do you organise your professional activities around your personal life?
This is what takes the most effort: separating the two and not only thinking about my next menu, finding time for myself between two projects and two operations with time to do other things, taking time out and managing my stress. I’m slowly learning to be better organised and sometimes this involves turning down projects to spend time with my husband and on my personal projects.
Tell us about a sudden inspirational moment of happiness
My first delivery! This was for cakes for a birthday within a workplace. I can see myself religiously carrying my boxes through the street, praying that the meringue on my lemon tart hadn’t sunk or stuck to the carton…I left with the payment in my pocket thinking “this is crazy, I can earn money from cooking!”.
I get a lot of pleasure from working with my hands. It’s a lovely feeling after spending 8 years behind a computer screen, my head stuck in books or in meeting rooms. One great moment of happiness recently was the day we knew we would be able to buy back the house that used to belong to my grandfather but had sadly left the family’s possession. It’s a house on the edge of the Dordogne and I had a lot of memories there, learning to cook with my aunt, where we got married and where I looked forward to entertaining my friends the following summer…and why not also run cooking workshops there for Dutch people?!
What cultural things do you like to go and do at the moment on your own or
with your family?
I love the ballet. The opera in Amsterdam may not have the same charm as Garnier but the artistic creations are usually very modern and aesthetically pleasing, with affordable prices. I’ve been there about ten times since my arrival. We also go to Concertgebouw fairly regularly, which is a concert hall quite near to us that puts on classical music concerts and jazz (in the smallest room downstairs). We recently went to Bimhuis, a wonderful architecture exhibition on the outskirts of the IJ for a concert of Brazillian music. I don’t know much about music and I can’t play two notes but I find music is relaxing and it gives me energy.
Can you share a little “home-made” recipe with us?
Turinois, with chocolate and chestnuts, which I got from my aunt Danielle; would you like to see the recipe?
Time for a bit of culture: Can you quote one of your favourite books or paintings?
A Summer Afternoon , by Emil Nolde. Click here
I like paintings by Nolde because he evokes many different feelings, often simply through an interplay with colours, clouds or waves. In this particular painting, you can imagine this woman in the flesh as she goes home after a long day. It doesn’t take much to guess the weight of the wheelbarrow, the light at the end of the day, the house with a thatched roof …you feel like you are coming to the end of the road with her. Possibly because the feeling of “going home” means a lot to me when I was a young student in Madrid, when I felt homesick sometimes.
The last two good books I’ve read: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and the literary circle for potato peelings amateurs.
Can you tell me about your project?
I’m passionate about gastronomy and have set up a French catering business in Amsterdam. I started by doing “Menus of the Month” for individuals, which got me known very quickly in the small French community in Amsterdam. For 6 months, I’ve,been focusing on “events”; with tailor-made menus for birthdays, christenings … as well as for companies. It took me a month to find my feet: in Amsterdam, administrative procedures are very easy for young entrepreneurs.
I created my logo and my website myself using “squarespace”, working pretty hard at first and spending my evenings working, but we got there in the end. I’m in the process of revising my whole site because after almost a year it’s good to have a makeover! I also bought a professional camera (an iPhone is good and I enjoy taking “staged photos”, but the results aren’t always as professional as I’d like). I had to buy quite a lot of professional kitchen equipment. At the moment, I work in a workshop next to my apartment, which is convenient but not ideal when you want to get away in the evenings. So, I’m actively looking for a kitchen to rent in Amsterdam to make further progress and where it will be easier to hold the cooking classes I give now and then.
What do you gain from your experience on a professional level and settling into the country?
It’s very exciting to start your own small business. Working for yourself is a real pleasure in itself. I don’t want to waste my time doing a job I don’t like. However, you can pay the price, with greater stress, a tighter financial budget than when I was a lawyer and many choices to make and dilemmas to solve.
All in all, I’m very happy with my new life. It’s definitely allowed me to settle into Amsterdam very well, develop my relationships and to create my own little piece of history here.
Can you summarise your professional journey?
After completing a BAC ES, I studied Spanish law in Madrid for two years, then spent two years in Paris doing a double master’s degree in Franco-Spanish law. Then, I did a master’s in international law, completed a placement in law firm and spent 8 years working in English and French law firms.