A blog interview: Croque Camille

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Today’s blogger profile should be an inspiration to anyone and everyone with an interest in cuisine and life abroad. Camille Malmquist is an American national making her living as a professional pastry chef in Paris, France. Her blog Croque Camille chronicles Camille’s daily adventures in the countryside as well as the kitchen, and is a wonderful and insightful look into the life and mind of a self professed “lover of food and travel.”

Why did you start cooking?

I’ve always loved to cook and bake.  In college, it dawned on me that this was an actual, marketable skill, and I should consider pursuing it as a career.

What’s your favorite thing about being a chef?

My favorite thing about baking professionally is the sense of accomplishment I feel at the end of every work day.  Something about working with my hands to create tangible results in the form of cakes and desserts is deeply satisfying.

Do you have a favorite dish or pastry? Why is it your favorite?

To eat, or to make?  Actually, the answers (yes, they’re plural) are the same.  Ice cream and bread are two of my very favorite things, period.  I think I love making ice cream so much because I love experimenting with flavors… and then eating the results!  Bread fascinates me with its aspect of being a living thing.  Yeast is a truly incredible thing to work with, and I never cease to be thrilled when I make a dough that rises as if by magic and bakes up into something delightful

What’s your next project going to be?

I’ve got a new job lined up for the fall.  It’s a little bit hush-hush right now, but it will involve making both ice cream and bread on a regular basis.  :)

What’s the best advice ever given to you (with regard to cooking, blogging, or anything else)?

My mom always told me, “Take pride in your work.”  It’s a phrase that has stuck with me for years, and I try every day to produce things I can be proud of.

Any recommendations for people who want to start their own blog or get into cooking?

Starting a blog takes nothing at all – it’s maintaining it that’s the challenge.  Don’t feel pressured to post every day, though.  One good post a week is definitely worth more than five half-hearted ones.

As for cooking, know that it’s neither easy nor glamorous.  Be willing to work long hours on your feet, skip meals, wash dishes, lift heavy things, learn  how the various machines you use work, and how to fix them when they stop.  Be present, enthusiastic, considerate, and attentive.  Never sit down on the job.

Who is your food icon?

It’s hard to pick just one, but I feel tremendous affinity for Julia Child – her devotion to French food and transcribing it for home cooks in America is admirable, and I can’t help but feel connected to her as an American woman making her living cooking in France.

How did you get into blogging?

I started Croque-Camille when my husband and I moved to Paris in 2008.  At the time I was unemployed, waiting for my work papers so I could start applying for jobs.  Food writing was something I’d been interested in for a while, so I decided to start a blog to record my food-related adventures in my new home.

What do you love most about blogging?

I’ve made an incredible number of friends thanks to my blog.  Many of them are right here in Paris, where the food-blogging community is vibrant and close-knit.  But I correspond with people all over the world, and that’s a pretty amazing thing.

Do you have any must-have items for this fall?

I don’t think my kitchen can hold another item! :)  For fall cooking, though, I think a Dutch oven is indispensable for making hearty, slow-cooked dishes like beef stew, chicken and dumplings, or Bolognese sauce.  I would also love to have a real grill – there’s nothing quite like fire for cooking game meats.

What are/were your favorite and least favorite trends in food?

I still don’t understand what it is about macarons that drives people to mania.  Give me an éclair any day!

The nose-to-tail trend, though, is something I can get behind.  Using as much of the animal as possible seems more respectful to the life of the beast as well as less wasteful of natural resources.  I think it applies to vegetables, too – beets, turnips, and even radishes have delicious greens that can be cooked in any number of delicious ways.  Eating more real, natural food just makes sense to me on a lot of levels.

What equipment do you use?

At home, I work on the high/low principle: I either buy really nice, high-end things – particularly if they’re cheaper in France than they are in the States, like Emile Henry bakeware, Staub and Mauviel pots, or Sabatier and Laguiole cutlery – or cheapo stuff that I plan on tossing when we eventually leave Paris.

In an ideal workplace, I’d have Hobart mixers (20- and 60-quart), Baxter rotating-rack ovens, a gas flat-top stove… I could go on all day, really.

How often do you work?

I have bizarrely normal hours for a pastry chef: I work Monday through Friday, about eight hours a day (more in the winter, less in the summer). The main difference is that I start at 6:30am.

Feel a sudden urge to do some baking of your own? Having the right baking sheet can make all the difference, and be sure to check out Camille’s own shop here!

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