Home has proved a moveable feast for chef and culinary director Chloe Lasseron. Born in France before leaving for California at the age of 5; subsequent moves to New York and Berlin have since been followed by a return to her homeland with a job in Paris heading up R&D and innovation for a French chain of coffee shops.
Text: Chris Hargreaves
Photos: River Thompson
Originally training as a pastry chef, the pressure of working in Michelin starred restaurants resulted in a gradual change of lifestyle; the exhilarating but intense work culture overshadowed by a newfound focus on outdoor pursuits.
“I loved it, learned a lot but got a little burnt out,’ explains Chloe.’There’s the after-work drinking culture and everyone smokes so it wasn’t the healthiest of times for me. And I was getting more involved in sport so making cake all day wasn’t particularly helping. I decided it was time to leave the restaurant and started as a recipe developer for a couple of mealkit companies.”
Berlin followed New York after Chloe was offered the role of culinary director before her recent move to Paris where she immediately felt at home. “Part of that is down to the language - I can understand what people are saying - but I just feel very comfortable in my new role. When I first arrived in Paris I called round the office to pick up my key and the door was opened by one of my co-workers holding a cat in his arms and offering me a glass of rosé. I knew straight away that this was going to work out.”
Asked whether she’s noticed any cultural nuances in her move to northern Europe, Chloe reflects on the pace of life after spending time living and working in the US. “I embraced that 24 hour culture but, now I’m here, it’s interesting not being able to get whatever you want whenever you want it. The way the shops close earlier and some don’t open at all on a Sunday. It forces you to slow down a bit. When I lived in New York I had a cable delivered because I wanted to charge my phone. It took an hour from the point of placing the online order to signing for the package. But if you can’t go shopping, you’re encouraged to go outside; spend time with your family.”
“It’s like how we organize our work lunchtimes,” Chloe continues. “Many salaried employees in France have these restaurant tickets - half the money coming from your salary with your employer contributing the other half - and I use these to bring takeout food back to the office where we sit around a big table and eat together. No one eats at their desks.”
Having recently completed her move into a new apartment, Chloe now has time to join fellow riders for Friday morning pre-work laps around the Hippodrome at Longchamp; taking a train out of Gare du Nord on the weekend to explore the surrounding countryside. “And I’ve just paid for a Vélib’ membership so I can commute from where I live in Montmartre in the 18th. It’s ridiculously good value and I never have to worry about locking up my own bike.”
Although running took precedence in New York, relocating to Berlin and not having the same time constraints from working in restaurant kitchens meant that Chloe found she enjoyed discovering the city by bike. ‘There’s a forest park called the Grunewald that I rode a lot when I first moved over. I didn’t have a bike computer but I knew how to get there and how to get home.’ A process that she is now repeating after her move to Paris with a search for new cycling routes to explore.
“I ride for the peace of mind it gives me,’ she suggests. ‘To be free from the pressures of work and even, to a certain extent, from my own thoughts. For those few hours you can focus on your legs and your breathing instead of everything else in your life. To be one with the nature around you, to simply be in that moment; it’s almost a kind of meditation.”
Adding Rapha Ambassador to already established professional roles, Chloe is ideally placed to suggest her preferred recipes for ride foods but believes that moderation is the key to the nutritional demands of focused training. “In the States I’d see individuals with a tupperware container filled with chicken breast and broccoli; eating purely for the specific nutrients. And that’s every day of the week [laughs]. The recipes that I devise all offer a performance gain but also give you a mental benefit in taste and variety. I don’t really believe in these crazy restrictive diets.”
“It’s like when I return from a ride,” she goes on to explain. “I have some prepared food that’s ready to go. You read about that 30 minute window but basically I’m just hungry and prefer to have something that tastes good but is also healthy than the classic grab for all the sugary carbs. I believe the healthier you eat, the better you feel.”
Tempering eating well with the importance of enjoying the food she consumes, Chloe happily admits to still using a fair amount of butter but balances this with a diet heavy on vegetables and a focus on seasonality. Quinoa or rice with fish or chicken baked in the oven; everything super simple. An approach to nutrition that is echoed in her new position where she’s responsible for modernizing the company’s menu in light of current food trends.
“If you look at what’s on offer now compared to 10 years ago, it’s pretty clear that people want to know what they’re eating with an ingredient list that’s simple and easy to understand.” A rationale reflected in Chloe’s own recipes that often have a concept as a starting point before working backwards from the end result. “Some chefs will begin with an ingredient but I like to take a recipe that I enjoy and then ask myself how I want to do it.”
A questioning approach to her professional life that’s mirrored when considering the process of settling into her new home. “Since I moved to Paris,” Chloe comments with a smile, ”I’ve been told by almost everyone that I have an accent when I speak French. At first I was really self conscious and a little embarrassed about it. But my accent simply reflects that I’ve lived and worked in lots of different cities and countries. It’s a part of me and part of my journey so far.”