FROM LOS ANGELES TO ANTIBES, MEET VEGAN CHEF IVY DAI

Entretien avec la restauratrice Ivy Dai. Interview with chef Ivy Dai.

When not writing about food, you can find chef Ivy Dai serving up her delicious plant-based cuisine at Graze Artisan Café, the restaurant she recently launched in Antibes.

To help you get to know Ivy better as well as finding out more about her restaurant and vegan cuisine in general, we had the chance to ask her a few questions.

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Hello Ivy. First of all can you tell us a little bit about yourself? I understand that you are from Los Angeles but have been traveling a lot over the last few years?

Hello! Yes I am originally from Los Angeles, born and raised. Since I was a little girl I have always had a bit of wanderlust. I first left home and travelled abroad at age 22 to China. It was a huge culture shock, but definitely an adventure and I learned Mandarin in the process. I went back to the States and worked as a food journalist then a producer for ABC News in 2008 before leaving and finally following my dream: attending the Cordon Bleu Culinary School. I completed my externship in Paris at Lenôtre and Hédiard, then headed back to California where I worked at the Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton hotels as a pastry chef.

France kept calling me back, and I finally landed an opportunity to help open a gluten free Pâtisserie in Paris in 2012. That was also a big move, and it was really tough adjusting. During my time there I also worked as a French pastry instructor and helped open NeoBento, an organic café in the trendsetting 3rd arrondissement (Le Marais). I also ran my own cooking classes, Dragon Dinners, which I launched in 2008 in California, teaching home cooks how to make authentic Chinese!

My yoga instructor in LA, Sabrina Kappler, worked in yachting and convinced me to come to Antibes and try my hand at yachting. It was tough breaking in at first, despite my experience. I cooked on several yachts for a variety of owners, and found my niche in plant-based and gluten-free fare with an international twist. My clients now seek me out solely for this type of cuisine, mostly in Europe but I recently just returned from Qatar and have worked in Asia.

Essentially, the cuisine you get in my restaurant is what I make for my international clients. I created Graze because I wanted to make tasty wholesome food available to the masses. I thought to myself – how can I take what I do for one person and do that same thing for many. That’s where the concept of Graze was born.

When did you first know that you wanted to become a chef? And a vegan one at that!

I first knew I wanted to be a chef in Mrs. Hilscher’s home economics class in 7th grade. I was 13. I learned to bake. I was always forcing my family to try new weird things. I had a natural skill for it.

At 19 I wanted to be a food writer, which I achieved at the age of 25, then I took the leap and went to culinary school and haven’t looked back since.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?

love feeding people. I love seeing the excitement in people’s faces and their whole being lights up when you cook something just how ‘mom used to make it’, or someone discovers a flavor so new and stupendous, it cracks open their world. Food is a journey of emotions, and a common language that connects people of all backgrounds.

You have recently launched your own restaurant, Graze Artisan Café, in Antibes, can you tell us a little about this new adventure? How would you describe the food you offer?

Opening Graze has been so gratifying, I didn’t except I would gain so much satisfaction and create a new community. The menu and style of service Graze offers has evolved according to the needs of our customers. And it’s a beautiful thing.

Look, I am not against meat. I am not telling anyone that butter is evil and don’t ever eat a hamburger again. In fact I love butter (a huge reason why I moved to France). Being a ‘vegan’ restaurant (I prefer to call it plant-based) becomes quite a political statement. People say but I like meat and I won’t stop eating it. But…do you need to have it at EVERY single meal? What about some curry? A delicious soup? Some dessert? Or a smoothie? There is really a lot of variety to eat!

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I am not against meat, I am for fresh fruits and vegetables. Meat and eggs and dairy products are excellent for health, especially bone broth, but in the modern age it takes a lot of time and money to eat high quality animal protein. And even then eating grass-fed is actually worse for the environment…one cow then eats so much more plants than a grain-fed cow.

I tell some of my customers who say why don’t you serve meat..I tell them if you go hunt and kill an animal and bring it to me, I will cook it. Or you can eat as much as cake, cookies, and pizzas as you want – just make it yourself. Hunting and baking are time-consuming, and foods that we rarely ate before the industrialization of food. Now you can have a burger anytime – but if you are only eating meat and wheat, there’s not much room for a vegetable. When you eliminate meat, you are forced to cook, then you naturally eat better.

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But I also know it is a challenge to eat well – there’s the shopping, the cooking, the menu planning, the clean up. Here at Graze, we strive to make wholesome food readily available for all of us who are getting busier and busier – and find ourselves eating crisps and an apple for dinner.

And why did you choose Antibes?

The French Riviera is on the exact same latitude line as California. It reminds me of home – the topography, near the beach and also the mountains, the weather, the relaxed attitude. I live in Antibes and chose to open Graze here because we need it. After years of living here, I found it tough to eat well on the go. As well as finding a variety of cuisines. And eating well means feeding your taste buds as well as your body. Enjoying a gastronomic experience is synonymous with being French – and how can a country who does not eat well, be well?

How do you dispel the belief that a vegan diet is bland?

Let’s name a few things that are tasty and just so happen to have no animal products:

– Chips/fries/french fries/pomme frites
– Onion bhajis
– A lot of Indian food
– A lot of Chinese food
– Guacamole
– Hummus
– Smoothies
– Chocolate
– Granola bars

So anyways we serve all this stuff here! Even scrumptious tacos and burgers, vegan pizza, Thai food, you name it. I would say we are more about offering a variety of international cuisine (as America is a large melting pot) than putting lettuce and pasta on a plate and saying bon appetit.

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Does being vegan help in maintaining a healthy weight?

As I mentioned earlier, when you add more fruits and vegetables in your diet, you automatically cut out a lot of processed food, which is what makes you tired, pack on the pounds, and grab for more sugary drinks, candy bars and fast food. At Graze all our smoothies are only made with 100 percent fresh fruit, desserts are made with unrefined cane sugar, and our dishes are perfect for anyone trying to lose weight or get lean. For example, our Thai Burger has 5 fruits and veggies, chickpeas for protein, and spicy curry paste to burn fat, 200 calories and ZERO fat. And it’s pretty damn tasty too…it’s topped with our coriander ‘aioli’ (made with organic soymilk).

I first tried to become vegan about 10 years ago, and it has been a long and bumpy journey to move to a plant-based diet. I remember the first day I didn’t eat meat or dairy I was crawling to In-N- Out Burger by the end of the day (a popular burger chain in California).

After I experienced severe adrenal fatigue and exhaustion in 2013, my digestion and overall health was shot – and I only craved fruits and vegetables. So that is all I ate for 6 months. I also did a juice fast for 3 days that really opened my eyes in terms of my attitude with food – that I ate to curb anxiety or when I was thirsty – not when I was actually hungry.

Everyone knows fruits and vegetables are good for you. So think about ADDING some color into your diet versus focusing on ELIMINATING meat and dairy. We need those vitamins and minerals to stay strong and healthy and skinny!

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What tip would you give to someone interesting in becoming a vegan?

If you are moving towards a plant based diet, I suggest eating things you like that already have a lot of flavor – like chili, but instead of ground meat, add 3 beans (for 9 complete amino acids). Or try Indian food, or maybe a sweet and sour basil eggplant stirfry. The trick is to keep your taste buds and body satisfied – hot as well as oily food will help keep you grounded as you move to a plant-based diet.

Do you have a culinary specialty?

To the first 25 people who like us on Facebook, I will send a FREE recipe booklet of my favorite recipes from the upcoming Graze cookbook. After liking us, just email usand we will send you your free copy!

My culinary specialties? Pastry (appeared on Food Network’s “Cupcakes Wars”), Chinese, and vegan and gluten-free of course !

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And finally, what do you like so much about the French Riviera? Are there any special places you would recommend?

For a list of all my favorite places in Antibes, you can check my site.

New Antibes additions: Mamalu, an amazing family style Italian restaurant by the covered market, The 44, a gastronomic meal in an intimate setting.

Favorite places in the Riviera: Mandelieu-la Napoule, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Chèvre d’Or in Eze, La Réserve (beach) in Nice, and on my yoga mat at Samasthiti Yoga or Azure Yoga in Antibes!

Many thanks to Ivy a for taking the time to answer our question, and we wish her the very best of luck with her new adventure. To find out more about Ivy’s work, you can visit her website and, of course, check out Graze Artisan Café when you happen to be in Antibes.

CONTACT DETAILS
Graze Artisan Café
20, rue des Casemates
06600 ANTIBES

Tel: +33 (0)4 89 82 51 73

All photos courtesy Ivy Dai / Graze Café

FALL IN LOVE WITH PROVENCE ALL OVER AGAIN WITH PATRICIA SANDS

Mon entretien avec l’écrivain canadien, Patricia Sands, pour Riviera Buzz. My interview of Canadian author, Patricia Sands, for Riviera Buzz.

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Canadian author Patricia Sands is in love with the French Riviera, a region she visits every year.

Her Love in Provence series, which includes three books to date, perfectly captures the beauty of the place we call home.

To get to know Patricia and her work better, we sat down with her to ask a few questions.

First of all, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

I am Canadian, with a home base in Toronto. I was a busy and happy stay-at-home mother for thirteen years until my husband suddenly died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 49. Our sons were 12 and 13. Needless to say it was a devastating time for us all.

I returned to university and became an elementary school teacher for a few years before I remarried. That was 20 years ago, and now our happily blended family consists of 7 adult ‘kids’ and six grandchildren. We all live near each other and spend a lot of time together. I play golf and tennis and still get out to ski from time to time, but my husband and I spend most of our winters in south Florida now. We try to spend a few months in Europe between May and October. It varies from year to year.

What brought you to France, and Antibes in particular?

I first fell in love with France when I backpacked around for a year when I was 21. The love affair has only grown throughout my life as I was fortunate to return often on holiday. For the past twenty years, my husband and I have spent at least two months there each year.

After renting a house in Biot one year, we discovered Antibes and that was that! My heart will live there forever and we return every year, although we also like to spend time in Nice as well.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I began writing seriously quite by accident! Ten years ago I started writing a book called The Bridge Club just for fun, for my real life Bridge Club. Eight women who have been friends for almost fifty years. As people began to read bits of the novel, they would say that their book club wanted to read it and that I was telling stories that most women would relate to in many ways. So I looked into publishing and decided to do it myself in 2010. After its success, I knew I would continue writing because I loved the whole experience.

When my husband and I were living in Antibes for 5 months in 2011, I wrote the first draft of The Promise of Provence, published in 2013, and the reader response was tremendous. So out of that novel grew the Love in Provence trilogy. In 2014, Book #2, Promises To Keep, was published. To that point I was publishing independently. However, Amazon discovered my books and signed me to a contract with their women’s fiction imprint, Lake Union Publishing. Lake Union then published Book #3 of the series, I Promise You This, in May 2016.

Being an author is never easy and it consumes my life, but when you love what you do, the effort is worth it.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the series?

In Book #1, 55-year-old Katherine Price’s husband of 22 years suddenly leaves her. She moves in with her elderly mother for a few months. The character of her mother, Elisabeth, is based on my late mother-in-law and much of her story is factual. It was important to me to share that. I hope readers will think about preserving their own family history when they read that part.

Then, Katherine or Kat, as she is often called, is persuaded to go on a home exchange to the Luberon and her life begins to change from her first day there. The location moves to Antibes as the story progresses. Book #2, Promises To Keep,continues her journey with a bit of drama added. Book #3, brings the trilogy to a close as Kat makes choices that will change her life forever. The story is in many ways a coming-of-age in middle age, and encourages readers to see that it’s never too late to take chances, make changes, and realize dreams.

In some ways the series is my love letter to France. I focus on location a great deal as I want my readers to see, smell, taste and savour life in the south of France. Many readers tell me they felt they were right there with the characters, and that’s very satisfying to me as a writer.

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Was it obvious for you to set the story in Provence?

Absolutely, no question! After the success of The Bridge Club and the realization I was going to keep writing about older women for the rest of my life, I knew my next book would be set in Provence. Little did I know it would become a series!

And do you have anything in common with the main character of your love in Provence series, Katherine Price?

I’ve never had to go through a divorce. However, having been widowed I know how it feels to suddenly begin to face life on your own at a later stage in life. Certainly, some aspects of Katherine’s personality have similarities to mine, but for the most part I would say she is her own person. We are both optimists and share the same values. It was great fun feeling her grow in confidence and outlook as the story unfolded.

Can we expect a fourth book in the series?

Funny you should ask! I receive emails from readers on a regular basis asking me to keep writing about the characters in the series. I would love to do that! So, right now I am working on a stand-alone novel … also set in France, but the Bouches-du-Rhône department rather than the Côte d’Azur. Hopefully that will be published early in 2017, and then I will return to Kat and friends. I can’t wait!

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You have a blog and you also lead tours of the French Riviera with the Women’s Travel Network. Does this help create a strong bond with your female readers?

Yes, I have a website with a lot of information about my books, about France and a lot of photography about France. I try to post once a week but don’t always manage that these days. Readers can also sign up for my monthly newsletter.

I’ve led two tours based on the locations in The Promise of Provence and we will do one in June 2017. I believe there are two spots left as we speak. There will be 16 women in all and it’s a fabulous trip. We spend 6 days in Nice and 6 in Avignon, with day trips to many of the wonderful villages in the story, including lavender fields. It’s great fun and lovely to get to know my readers in person.

In general, what is for you the hardest part about writing?

This may sound crazy, but I love everything about the world of writing. I guess the hardest part is knowing when to say a first draft is finished and ready to go to an editor. Writers always find ways to keep tweaking a story to make it better and better. I’m definitely guilty of that.

And the most rewarding?

This was a surprise to me. I never anticipated hearing from so many readers and the emails they send are wonderful. They are inspiring, motivating, satisfying and rewarding. The advent of ebooks has made it so easy to communicate with an author and I love hearing from readers. I try to respond personally to each one, but some times this is not possible and that’s why I began writing a monthly newsletter. It helps me feel like I am talking to readers who want to hear from me. I only send it to people who subscribe to it.

The other rewarding part of writing is the amazing, supportive, caring international community of writers I get to associate with and learn from. What an honour to be part of it.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Read Stephen King’s book “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”. The most important advice I took from it when I was beginning to write The Bridge Club is this: if you feel so strongly that you have a story to tell, sit down and write it. Make mistakes. Find your voice. TELL YOUR STORY IN YOUR OWN WAY! Then work with a good, reputable editor (not a relative or friend) who will help you hone your style. Write, write, write!

Finally, as you spend some time every year in Antibes, what do you like so much about the French Riviera?

Where do I begin? I like the people, the history, the language, the food and wine, and, of course, the beauty. Since photography is a big part of what I do, the visual beauty of that part of the world offers endless opportunities.

I feel incredibly blessed to spend time there and to be able to share my love of that part of the world with so many readers.

Thanks so much for inviting me to visit with you.

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Many thanks to Patricia for taking the time to talk to us. To find out more about the Love in Provence series and Patricia’s other activities, you can visit her website, her Amazon Author Page, or connect via Instagram.

All photos courtesy Patricia Sands except final image via Amazon

MOVIE SET IN ANTIBES GENERATES EARLY OSCAR BUZZ

Cet article a été publié dans Riviera Buzz en 2012 (this article was published in Riviera Buzz in 2012)

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Another possible French contender for an Oscar, ‘Rust and Bone’, directed by Jacques Audiard, was shot locally in Antibes.

Three years after taking home the runner-up Grand Prix for the gritty prison drama ‘A Prophet‘, French director Jacques Audiard won the Best Picture award at the London Film Festival last month with ‘De rouille et d’os‘ (‘Rust and Bone‘), a movie he shot late last year in Antibes.

Loosely based on a collection of short stories by Craig Davidson, Audiard’s new film centers around Ali (Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts), a single father who is struggling to make a living as a security guard, and Stéphanie (Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard), a trainer and performer at Marineland. At first, the two protagonists do not seem to have much in common, but months after their first encounter, with Stéphanie having both legs amputated following a terrible killer whale attack, she finds that the only person she can talk to is Ali.

Not everybody will connect with this miraculous friendship that turns into an absorbing love story. ‘Rust and Bone‘ alternates between depressing and uplifting moments, and does not hesitate to show the main character’s severed limbs, thanks to impressive special effects. But for those who do, they will be terribly moved by this raw, yet poetic, tale of survival and redemption against all odds, and will be deeply impressed by the performances of the two lead actors who bear it all, both physically and emotionally.

Appearing without makeup, Cotillard manages to portray a certain courageousness, yet sensuality at the same time. We watch her character move from a position of frailty to one of strength, with Cotillard delivering probably her best performance since ‘La Môme‘ (‘La vie en rose‘). As for Schoenaerts, previously seen in Bullhead, he is equally as measured and compelling as his famous costar.

Rust and Bone‘ is generating Oscar buzz for Cotillard as it makes the festival rounds. It has been released this month in the UK and the US, and is now available in France on DVD.

http://www.riviera-buzz.com/on-the-town/entertainment/item/90-movie-sets-in-antibes-generates-early-oscar-buzz.html