The culinary diva onlineBY JOE RAY
Look out Nigella (Lawson). Move over Jamie (Oliver). Young Frenchwoman Clotilde Dusoulier is on the verge of culinary diva-dom.
Dusoulier, 25, is the gourmand behind the wildly popular foodie web log, Chocolate and Zucchini, offering readers an English-language introduction to the French food scene.
Her fans are many. Among the 70,000 visitors who go to chocolateandzucchini.com each month is American food writer, Davide Leite, whose site, Leite’s Culinaria (leitesculinaria.com) is one of the few food sites to eclipse the number of page views C and Z receives.
“The blog represents a life that foodies around the world crave – I know I certainly do: to live in the heart of Paris, in Montmartre no less; to have access to some of the freshest ingredients available,” says Leite. “I feel like an interloper – a culinary voyeur, if you will – when I read her site. It makes me want to visit Paris now.”
Leite isn’t the only one to take notice.
Gourmet magazine named Chocolate and Zucchini one of the six best food blogs on the web in its April 2004 issue.
Online, it’s no small potatoes this year, either: she’s been a “Yahoo! Picks” winner, a nominee for “Best European Weblog” in the Bloggie Awards and was a Feedster Feed of the Day. She’s generated enough attention that she’s even negotiating a book deal with a publisher in New York.
Between the attention she and her site are receiving, it seems a given that she attended French culinary school. Wrong. Dusoulier’s is a relatively late-blooming passion, picked up on the fly in the United States.
“I was not interested in food at all until I got to the US,” she says in an interview in a cafe. It was the “rarity thing”, however, that made her appreciate things from France, “the fact that things were hard to find made them more valuable in my mind.”
Fresh out of college, Dusoulier and her partner Maxence (who makes regular appearances on C and Z) found IT work in California’s Silicon Valley in May 2000, where “a five-month internship turned into a two-year stay.”
She and Maxence couldn’t have arrived in Silicon Valley at a better time and once her internship was over, she started making an “indecent” amount of money by “knowing how to program things and being able to explain them to people who don’t.”
So where does the food come in?
“I stopped smoking and put on 10 pounds,” she says flatly.
“Luckily,” she adds, while sipping her Perrier, “California is a great place to get interested in healthy food.” As she says on her site, “I am very particular about what goes in my mouth.”
In she dove, always holding a special place in her heart for her home country’s products, while using some of her salary to sample some of California’s best restaurants.
Riding the Internet bubble in California until January of 2002, she came back to Paris that March and launched C and Z in September 2003.
In the beginning, her culinary return to Paris was a comparison in size. Asked to compare French and American food cultures, she begins by reeling off a list that starts with food portion size and the physical size of restaurants, but eventually even makes it to the size of cars and streets, “Everything is smaller in France.”
“Food shopping is very different,” she notes, stating her preference for the French penchant for specialty stores such as butcher shops, bakeries and cheese shops.
“It makes a difference when you want to cook and cook well. If the butcher doesn’t have what you need, they can tell you what to substitute,” she says. “In the US this isn’t so – the guy who’s stacking produce (in a big supermarket) doesn’t necessarily know what to do with it.”
It’s these specialty vendors, beautiful products and what to do with them that Dusoulier presents on a near-daily basis to her readers.
“Once you get into it,” she reflects, seemingly on both her site and the French food scene, “it never stops!” – AFP