In the Kitchen with Mimi Thorisson
If you are not currently passionate about cooking, then I suggest you tune into Mimi’s world, online or through her cookbooks and let yourself get inspired. She is what we call a super Mama. Juggling home, kids, travel while still following her passion and looking totally relaxed. She’s got her work life balance sorted. A way of living that is so inspiring, and feels so profoundly grounding, by just looking at it.
Why keep your passion for the spare time in your life, because then you will probably never get round to it and not build your world around your passion? Mimi Thorisson is a lady of the world who walks the walk.
I let myself be inspired, swept off my feet to be honest. She is beautiful from the inside out and it shows. It shows in her face, it shows on her kids faces. She managed to, build such a strong team with her partner in crime- you can feel it and see it and it shows on her plate through her cooking.
I recently met Mimi in person and truly believe that things come your way just at the right time at the right place. I am always inspired by modern women who lead their life outside of the box, fueled by a drive that is igniting and inspiring.
Mimi is one of those women who show us that you are the master of your universe. Meet Mimi in our conversation here and follow her on her instagram because, she’s got exciting news coming your way!
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Where you grew up, where you live, how you got into cooking, what you are passionate about?
My name is Marie-France Thorisson, but everybody calls me Mimi (apart from my husband because he prefers my old-fashioned name). I was born and grew up in Hong Kong, my mother is French and my father Chinese. My childhood was wonderful and very exciting, we travelled a lot especially to France in the summertime to visit my French relatives in Moissac, in the Tarn et Garonne.
My parents decided to send me to a Chinese school until I was 8 - so I was completely immersed in the Chinese culture and education. Changing schools to a French one at 9 years old was a big moment for me, it felt as I changed identities. From then on I felt very grateful and proud to have two heritage and cultures - French and Chinese.
My father was extremely passionate about food, my mother not at all, so I quickly became my father's accomplice when it came to eating! He was obsessed with quality of produce, always searching for the best possible dishes and chefs all over the world, it wasn't abnormal to go to six restaurants in one day! So you can imagine from then on, food was my passion too.
My mother would find it amusing that I was so interested in cooking, since she never stepped in the kitchen. I admire her elegance and femininity, but food was not her passion. That's perhaps the reason why I loved going to France every summer, because my grandmother and aunt are amazing cooks, we spent all our precious time in the markets or in the kitchen, followed by hours at the table.
I always cherish those times as the most heartwarming, that's when I felt we were all a family, around the table. It made me feel happy and complete. I loved cooking, it gave me a sense of freedom and creativity, a sense of love. Today I am still that person, passionate and always wanting to create something.
I'd like to imagine how you are when you are in your kitchen and in your element. Do you accompany your self with music, podcast or anything else? Does your husband help you or the kids?
My kitchen is the most important space in my house, so I need to feel at ease and happy. I need order, space, beauty, an abundance of fresh seasonal produce. I often use the word abundance, that because I have so many family members to feed! It is normal for me to cook for about 12/16 people, just my family. It surprises a lot of people to see how calm I am while I am cooking for so many, but the truth is that it's my way of life. Just like a marathon runner can run, I can cook and be a mom to 8 kids and still have a balanced life. It's about experience, strength, will, and passion.
I love music, so I'll start with a bit of Aretha Franklin, Ella, Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett. Depending on my mood and what I cook, it can also get energetic. I'll blast some 80's electro pop or U2... it boosts my energy and it's fun.
I just started discovering the world of podcast, I am intrigued - but I could never listen to podcasts while I am cooking, because I need rhythm and energy. Cooking is a bit like dancing - you need to have the right reflexes and all the right moves.
My husband... he is wonderful. I admire his incredible strength and unique mind. He is also the most helpful husband. When I was first dating him and visited Iceland (his homeland), I was shocked to see so many men were pushing prams and changing diapers in cafés. Men in the Nordic countries are generally more helpful in family life - it's a cultural fact, there is more gender equality, and that is very much reflected in everyday life.
Photos by Oddur Thorisson
With a family of eight kids, a couple of dogs, and of course you and your partner your kitchen must be open and well stocked all the time. What are your family's favourites?
My husband always jokes about my 3 fears: no more butter, no more eggs and no more i-phone battery. That is nearly true :) Honestly, I am not the most organized Mom, even with 8 kids. I don't plan meals days ahead, unless I have a special event or so. I just cook according to what is available in the season, and create a meal that I know will please everyone. But here are the things I am always well stocked with - fresh vegetables, eggs, butter, anchovies, parmesan, tomato passata, guanciale, pasta, all sorts of flour. I can always cook a great meal out of these ingredients.
Family favourites are my beef and guinness beer cottage pie, chou farçi, lamb chops with lots of crispy garlic and rosemary, roast chicken with Jura wine sauce and morilles... my family are all good eaters! I also love to Chinese and Indian dishes, I love and need to change flavors once in a while.
Keeping life real, mornings are often rushed times. Tell me how you breakfast during morning rush? Any quick fix tips?
I make sure we have porridge oats, milk, eggs and bread. So we start hectic mornings with porridge with honey and blueberries or toast with an omelet. I have banned cereal boxes, they are usually filled with sugar and very messy with kids.
I started growing food a couple of years ago. Although the space was limited on our rooftop in Tokyo, the lettuce and other herbs were generous. Now in Paris I've planted some seeds this Spring. It feels so satisfying already haha. Do you like to grow your own food too?
In France we have a beautiful potager, it's a big part of our lives. All the children help out - we grow everything, from beautiful tomatoes and all sorts of cabbage. In Torino we have a terrace, so we also grow all sorts of herbs and lettuce. The kids started a little project planting seeds, so we are waiting for peas and lots of little surprises.
Living in Torino, there must be an abundance of fresh produce and deliciousness to whisk together. Where do you like to fill your market basket?
The farmer's market in Porta Palazzo is Europe's biggest farmer's market. I am amazed at the quality of the produce, and find it very exciting to fill my basket with different types of vegetable, different from what I am used to in France. I will start with potatoes from the Langhe, and I go crazy for all sorts of radicchio and zucchini flowers. Then I'll pick interesting herbs, chillies and wild flowers which I use for cooking. We usually end up with crates of goodness!
You love family, food & travel: what are your secret passions?
Everything we do is for our family - it's our core. I managed to trace my own path with my husband so that we could combine family and work. Food is my passion and my way to communicate my love for others. And travel is a way of life, a sense of adventure, discovery and education. We try to include our children in most trips, when possible.
We are working on a new cookbook, on Italian regional cooking. I think our cookbooks are more than recipes, it's also a story of a family living a life filled with adventure. This book is very special to me because Italian food brings me such joy. Italy is a country where family values are very important, and you can feel it in the food culture. I am also really enjoying making pasta with my pasta coach - she's a lady from Puglia and extremely talented in pasta-making and history of pasta.
On another note, I am very excited to share a few new projects I am working on. I have always loved fashion, and I am thrilled to collaborate on a capsule collection with MIRAE, a Parisian brand of clothing founded by Tara & Camille Jarmon, and Edith Cabane. They are fantastic women who understand style and tailoring and we share the same vision. It's all about my inspirations, timeless iconic pieces. I love the style of Anouk Aimée, Marella Agnelli, Sophia Loren... they inspire me everyday.
I'm so thrilled to have met you. I read about you years ago and was in admiration how you live a life of passion. Now standing in the middle of the Italian Embassy residence in Paris I spotted you in your gorgeous green skirt, radiant as on every picture. We are what we do and health comes from what we eat. What ever you do it suits you! Can you please tell us how you practice self care: skin care, beauty routine or products you love and recommend?
Ah, I love self care. Growing up in Hong Kong, my parents were very conscious about preventive medicine, so we would have all sorts of herbal remedies. Reflexology was a big part of our lives, so was acupuncture. I still carry on these habits and trying to combine nutrition with healing plants. Beauty starts from within. As for beauty routine, I start the day with Roberts Rose lotion to tone my face so it feels fresh and ready. Then I apply a vitamin C serum followed by a gentle massage to get a good complexion. I love Weleda's skin food cream, and I also swear by a line of beauty products I discovered in Pharmacia in Torino, they have a lavender and chamomile cream that is perfection. In the evening, after cleansing my face I massage with Aesop's fabulous face oil for 15 minutes. It's the best anti-aging tip! For make-up, I am very faithful to Chanel Vitalumière foundation and lipstick, MAC Prism blush and Telescopic mascara from L'Oréal (to my horror I found out they are discontinuing it so I ordered 12 just in case!). Otherwise I recently discovered Trinny London make-up and it's my new favourite! The BFF cream in medium is truly mind-blowing and honestly, the best eye-shadows I have ever used (I use chariot). They are creamy but still powdery, and give the most beautiful natural effect. A must! And to finish my make-up I spray called prep-set-glow fro Iconic London, it gives me a dewy glow that looks natural. And I use Artís make-up brushes - I wouldn't know how to apply make-up without them.
One more question: what is your take on diet?
I am very careful about balancing my diet. I love eating well and absolutely passionate about food. My philosophy is that you can eat anything you want in small proportions, never eat processed food and low on sugar. I carefully balance everything and only eat bread as a treat. I drink chai curcuma tea or Matcha tea all day long in my thermal bottle and make ox-tail and vegetable broths twice a week and often have a bowl for breakfast. And when I feel I am out of touch with my body, I'll fast for 2 days and restart everything. It works!