With locations sprinkled throughout New York City (and Toronto) Maman is an absolute foodies dream. Full of Instagrammable moments and delicious food, Maman is a must visit for anyone planning a trip to the Big Apple whether you’re a Francophile or not!
Elisa Marshall first opened the Soho location of Maman in 2014 along with her partner Ben, and since then they’ve hosted memorable events from children’s parties and bridal showers to cake workshops making Maman a home away from home.
I recently had the chance to chat with Elisa about how Maman began, and I hope you will enjoy this inside look at Maman NYC.
When did you first come up with the concept for Maman?
Before I opened Maman, I felt that I was doing a little bit of everything but nothing whole heartedly, 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.
How did you decide on the name Maman?
Maman means ‘mother’ in French. For both my partner Ben and myself, our moms were our biggest inspiration in the kitchen, and I think something relatable for many others. Maman also conitates ‘home’, which is the feeling and vibe we want guests to encounter with everything we do!
You began your career in fashion, branding, PR and events. What was it like transitioning from that field to owning and running Maman?
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. From weddings to birthdays, I loved planning more intimate occasions and celebrating people as opposed to ‘things’. Always baking was a personal passion. There were so many opportunities – people were always asking me if I knew anyone great for cakes or sweets and that’s why I started to book clients.
I’m very thankful for my early professional experiences, I feel every aspect of it from branding to baking, to events and sales all provided me with the stepping stones to get me where I am today. As a business owner, I am using so many of the skills from my previous experiences. When looking back on the most valuable, I think branding and developing a clear identity of who and what you are is one of the most important things. If you don’t have that foundation, you can’t tell your story.
What sets Maman apart from other coffee shops and cafe’s around NYC?
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.
I love the mismatched blue and white floral plates that you use at Maman, what inspired you to go with that particular look and do you source your plates from a particular shop or have you collected them over time?
The first set of blue and white plates were a gift from Ben’s grandmother. (They are long gone by now unfortunately.) I have always loved mismatching patterns and I was living in Spain at the time and went shopping for a larger set as we were only given 4. I came across other beautiful blue and white patterns that were different, but similar enough to work together at a place setting and it all stemmed from there! I am a huge lover of tablescaping and vintage items and I knew I didn’t want to offer traditional flatware & dinnerware. I wanted guest to feel like they were eating in the home of their grandmothers. I am always sourcing blue and white – from eBay, craigslist to antique markets, now they break them faster then I can buy them so I am always having fun sourcing and shopping for these beautiful things!
Your menu is a combination of savory and sweet, French and American, what are some of your favorite dishes from the current menu, and what do you enjoy most about planning the menu from season to season?
I love working with seasonal items, I am an avid cook and love shopping at markets playing with what’s new and what’s fresh and it’s fun to work alongside our head chef and incorporate that into our menu. We like to create a fusion of French and American cuisine – a delicious croissant or jambn au burre, or avocado toast and matcha latte we try to have a variety to appease all pallets, but still putting focus on our principals of fresh seasonal ingredients and dishes your mom would cook!
Is there a particular item on the menu that is especially popular?
Our nutty chocolate chip cookie is for sure our #1. Oprah names it as one of her favorite things and it is a sweet treat no one can resist. It’s macadamia nuts, almonds and walnuts, paired with a rich dark chocolate and a touch of sea salt in a buttery dough.
Last year you had a pop up at Marche Maman featuring French housewares brand Vivi et Margot. What was your favorite part about working with Charlotte?
Charlotte is wonderful, and has the best eye for sourcing one of a kind French home goods. She has the home of my dreams and I was a fan of hers and following her on Instagram. When the marché opened, I reached out to her with the opportunity as I felt our brands paired so well and we shared the exact same customer. I am so thankful we did as we had such a successful pop up with her and I made a wonderful friend!
Maman offers workshops like the Valentine’s Naked Cake Making Workshop in February. What do you enjoy the most about having these events and connecting with the community around you?
I love taking our brand further than just a cafe of coffee shop. I really want to create a lifestyle brand and community center with Maman. We started working with various creatives and artists hosting workshops and I had a client hosting a bridal shower ask me if I could do a cake class. I just fell in love with teaching, and was so excited to see how much it was enjoyed by the guests and how easy it was for them to learn a new skill and create a beautiful work of art they didn’t think they were capable of! I have lots of past students tagging me in photos of cakes they have made since and it feels so good!
I wish we had a place like Maman here in Charlotte, North Carolina. Do you have current plans to expand beyond NYC & Toronto?
Hmmmm…I am always on the look out. I am a bit of a control freak, so it would difficult to go bi-coastal, but we are currently entertaining some franchise opportunities so you never know 😉
In addition to running Maman you are also a contributing writer for Martha Stewart. What do you enjoy the most about writing for that particular platform?
This must be the highlight of my career so far – Martha has always been a huge huge inspiration of mine since I was very little and to be doing something associated to her still makes me blush and pinch myself! I love entertaining, it is one of my favorite elements of Maman and this was a wonderful opportunity to have a creative outlet to showcase fun thematic non ‘Maman’ events.
What is the most rewarding aspect of owning and running Maman?
It is hard to pin this down to just one – I love the events side of thing and being part of someones most memorable day. Doing those extra special touches to make a clients baby shower so memorable or being a key role in someones wedding and creating for them the best day ever gives me so much personal joy! I also love the fact that I have created a beautiful space for people to enjoy – to be creative, enjoy a great meal around the table with people they love, relax and unwind with a good cup of coffee and a book to celebrate one of life’s very special moments!
On a personal side, I think it is most fulfilling to get to do what you love every day, alongside my husband the person I love. That is what really keeps me smiling!
Follow along with Maman and Elisa via the following links…
Instagram: @_mamannyc_ and @_byelisa_
* All photos in this post are by: @aritettamanzi
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