Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hot Chef in Paris

Meet Michael D. Poole - Paris-trained Artisan Chocolatier &
Owner of Hot Chocolate, Artisan Firehouse Chocolates.

Cooking and culinary classes are all the rage in Paris these days. But for serious chefs, Paris has been the ultimate kitchen for centuries. 
Did you know that Sally Hemings' brother, James, trained and became chef de cuisine in Paris? He was part of Thomas Jefferson's entourage and his fine culinary skills guaranteed that when diplomat Jefferson returned to Monticello, the family would continue eating in the style they had become accustomed to à la française.
I'd like to introduce you another African-American chef who is putting his Cordon Bleu training to delicious use. 

Credit: Tom Reeves

I met Michael D. Poole in 2008 in Paris. He was sharing out a box of chocolates. Not just your run-of-the-mill gourmet delectables. These were imprinted with colorful, fantastic designs as I'd never seen. Based in Seattle, today Michael continues to make his annual trip to the City of Lights to perfect his creative repertoire. This year's goal was to work on the French macaron.

What sparked your interest in becoming a chef?
Becoming a cook at the firehouse was the beginning of my passion for cooking. I was 21 years old and it was early in my fire department career. I started off as the firehouse cook. I was assigned to a busy downtown fire station in Seattle. I was cooking for twelve hungry firefighters who liked good food and lots of it. During that time I became very passionate about my food and cooking.

Was there a turning point or key event that propelled you to undertake this professionally?

I started a food concession business, selling Jamaican cuisine at street fairs and festivals in Seattle and California. I catered lunches for fashion photo shoots which deepened my desire to one day attend a culinary school. On the photo shoots, the crew — the models, photographers, and art directors — would eat out at fine restaurants all the time. 

They were always talking about food, where they were going for dinner, restaurants they had already visited, and how the food compared at the various places they had dined. Therefore, I wanted my food not only to be delicious, but also to be as memorable as some of the dishes that they had at the fine restaurants where they dined.

What role does Paris play in your career?
Paris has been a big part of my life and who I am as a chef! Every year I go to Paris, I learn something new, and improve on my culinary skills.

How many times have you been to Paris or France on 'chef business'?
I have been going to Paris for the last thirteen years   
What did you gain from each trip?
Between 2000-2003, I attended Le Cordon Bleu, taking one class every year.  I originally went  for Cuisine, cooking for my catering. While there, I discovered I had an interest in pastry. Once I went back the second year I learned how to make chocolates. (When I added) those to my catering, people were amazed and persistently told me I needed to box them and sell them.

 I graduated in 2003 with le grand diplome for cuisine and pastry. I was also class valedictorian.
I would bring back one or two really good recipes to add to my catering repertoire. Over the years, I have accumulated a nice French recipe book.

Credit: Sally Blake

Any downsides?

Let me think about this. Coming to Paris every year and do something I love…. NO! 
What's the most surprising thing you've learned?

I found my passion. My passion for making Chocolates.
What was the goal of this trip? Any a-ha moments?

The goal of this trip was to work on my French Macaron. My goal is to make Seattle’s best macarons!! The a-ha moment was when I learned that I needed to change my techniques for macaroons!

Can your fans expect any changes or new in what you'll be offering?

I will be working on a few new chocolate flavors. This will be my Paris 2013 inspired chocolates, as well as developing new flavors for my macaroons.

Where and how can people sample your creations?

I have an online store. Six retail outlets in Seattle carry my chocolates. 

I just participated in the Northwest Chocolate Festival at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle.

I will be at the L.A. Chocolate Salon October 6th, 2013, at the Pasadena Center. http://www.LAChocolateSalon.com

Future events include chocolate-making classes, corporate and Christmas gifts, and attending the New York Salon du Chocolat.



Thursday, August 22, 2013

My Top 30 Books on Black Paris & Beyond

A section of my bookcase. 

The largest private collection of books on the African American experience in France I ever saw was on the shelves upon shelves at the home of the late Professor Michel Fabre.
Bookish people like me tend to be a little particular about lending out their precious books but Professor Fabre opened the door and said 'Have a look around. Then, find anything?" I found the stories that I tell on the tours today.

And, in the spirit of those who dedicate their time and passions to teaching or learning about the Black experience, I'd like to share a few of my books with you. Go ahead, pick one or two and prepare yourself for a trip through exceptional lives and experiences.

I've added a few on this list about Paris and France, too, because one theme is a rich source for the other.

  Books We Use on the Tour

Deep Are The Roots - Memoirs of a Black Expatriate
Gordon Heath
Actor in
New York and London, turned folk club nightclub owner of Cabaret de l'Abbaye from 1948 in Saint-Germain-des-Pres amid the rage of jazz clubs.

Henry Ossawa Tanner - A Spiritual Journey
Marcus C. Bruce
In the Lives and Legacies series by Crossroads Publishing Company.
Tanner’s story is one where you cheer on the little guy who wields a huge amounts of talent.
He was more than an inspired painter - dedicated husband, proud father, mentor, community leader, Red Cross worker.

La reine des pommes
Chester Himes
The 50th anniversary of the Serie Noire by Gallimard.
The novel that opened the doors to the
France kingdom for Chester Himes. Turned into the movie 'A Rage In Harlem'.

Black Boy - the restored text established by the Library of America, 1993 edition
Richard Wright
Signed by Wright's daughter, Julia Wright.
I love the way every couple of years the cover of this timeless novel changes, in a style that attracts new readers all over again
Why I Left
America and Other Essays
Oliver W. Harrington. Introduction by M. Thomas Inge.
A close friend of Richard Wright and well-known
Pittsburgh cartoonist, Harrington gives indepth perspective on his exile in Europe, his homeland, and the culture he was trying to outrun. I use readings from this in my presentations.

Three Lives
Gertrude Stein
This was Stein's first published book, and one of the three lives is that of Melanctha, a worldly-wise and sensitive Black girl. When Richard Wright read this story, he said he could hear his grandmother's voice in the character, and he struck up a lifelong friendship with Stein.
Harlem to Paris - Black American Writers in France, 1840-1980
Michel Fabre
My bible.

A Street Guide to African Americans in
Michel Fabre
Bible #2

Notes of a Native Son, 1984 edition.
James Baldwin
Baldwin’s first nonfiction book. To get inside Baldwin’s mind via these searing essays is an unforgettable trip. Includes life in Harlem, protest novels and his first, turbulent insights on living in Paris.

For Ongoing Research and Enlightenment

Negrophilia - Avant-Garde Paris and Black Culture in the 1920s
Petrine Archer-Straw
 Explores the ambiguities and racial complexities of the 1920s
Paris through every artistic and cultural expression possible. Absolutely fascinating.

The ABC of Color
W.E.B. DuBois. Introduction by John Oliver Killens
Sixty years of brilliant insights from this social scientist, historian and pioneer in black liberation. While trying to find myself in the European culture during my first years in
Paris, this book got me reflecting on what it meant to be black.

Black Paris - The African Writers' Landscape
Bennetta Jules-Rosette, Forward by Simon Njami
This professor of sociology at U. California at
San Diego explores African writing and identity in France from early negritude, founding of the Presence Africaine publishing house to the mid-1990s.

Black France / France Noire - The History and Politics of Blackness
Trica Danielle Keaton, T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, Tyler Stovall, Editors.
In a country that doesn't recognize race as a meaningful category, how to understand and explain the realities of race and racism in this supposedly race-blind society. Brilliant essays that address some deeply challenging questions on how prejudice manifests itself. You don't get a better picture than through these three experts.

Harlem Renaissance - Hub of African American Culture, 1920-1930.
Steven Watson.
Amazing achival photos and page-turning storytelling. This book helped me gain foundation and bridge between the Harlem Renaissance and the brilliance that continued in Roaring Twenties Paris.

Talking at the Gates - A Life of James Baldwin
James Baldwin
Say it again, James.
Paris Then and Now

Writers in Paris - Literary Lives in the City of Light
David Burke
Love the way David tells a story - Includes Wright,
Baldwin, Alexandre Dumas
Le Paris des Etrangers, (The Paris of Foreigners)
Edited by Andre Kaspi and Antoine Mares
Paris as a refuge for the self-exiled, poets, writers, photographers, musicians, architects, sculptors, as well as students, workers, the persecuted and dilettantes  from all nationalities... Interesting reflection on how French attitudes were changing.

De l'indigene à l'immigre  (From Native to Immigrant)
Pascale Blanchard, Nicolas Bancel
In the series Decouvertes Gallimard
The French colonial model ‘bringing their colonies gently into the light of civilization’, as the authors put it. From colonialization to immigration to integration of
France's colonies. Excellent archival images of advertising depicting Black, Arabic and South East Asian stereotypes.

Les Juifs à Paris a la Belle Epoque
Beatrice Philippe
Because I also have a keen interest in Jewish culture. 

Gourmet Paris - an A to Z of the best dishes - Restaurant guide
Emmanuel Rubin
More than just a handy guide, it describes the traditional French dishes and gives historical context to the dishes. Mini history of
France by mouth.

Guide to Impressionist Paris
Patty Lurie
A brilliant then-and-now guide book of street scenes as painted by Degas, Manet, Monet, Van Gogh et al juxtaposed with photographs of the exact same location today. Because
Paris is always a dance between the past and the present.

Chic et jolie à petits prix a Paris - the best addresses for fashion and beauty for smart Parisians.
Charlotte Roudaut, from the series Les Guides qui changent la ville.
I'm not much of a shopper and this little guide book makes it easy for me to cut through the shash.

The Road from the Past - Traveling through History in France
Ina Caro
More than just facts, an opinionated guide that takes history buffs like me right into the heart of Provence, Loire Valley and all point in between. How can you live in this country and not succomb to the pull of history.

Boris Vian - Manuel de Saint-Germain-des-Pres
Boris Vian (aka The White Negro)
Vian was the pope of post WWII Saint-Germain-des-Pres, he opened jazz clubs where the best musicians (Miles, Sidney, Bud P…) came to play but he was also a fabulous, irreverent raconteur of his favorite neighborhood. This edition includes a booklet of photos plus a CD. This, plus Alain Souchon’s “Rive Gauche à Paris” brings back the best days of this part of the  6th arrondissement.

L'Afrique de la colonisation a l'independance
Anne Stamm, from the series Que sais-je?
My primer on African colonization to Independence.

Paris Put a Pen in their Hands

(click on the book title for link)

Jake Lamar
Is it possible that we have a reincarnation of Richard Wright and Chester Himes in our midst? Mais, oui! From Jake's first - the autobiographical 'Bourgeois Blues' to political thrillers to Paris based who mystery-thrillers, Jake is the master.

Tanner Blue - a novel
Valerie Haynes Perry
A story born on the Left Bank of the Seine when the author learned that the French named a color after Henry Ossawa Tanner. Valerie penned this after taking our tours.

Project Girl
Janet McDonald
A powerful account of a young girl from the Projects struggle to realize her dreams. Janet, a lawyer turned successful author, who realized her dream of living in
Paris and becoming a writer. A segment of her divided life and battle to reconcile opposing worlds.

Passing Love - a novel
Jacqueline E. Luckett
This romantic yet realistic novel shifts between
Paris of today lived by a young questing woman and the jazzy expat city of the 1950s.

Half-Blood Blues
Esi Edugyan
Written by an Afro-Canadian, this award-winning novel of WWII jazz era
Paris and Nazi Germany stands out with its musical diction - it reads like a jazz piece.
Annandale Blues
Guy Ducornet
The memoir of a young French jazz lover whose encounter with Ralph Ellison changed his life. He wrote this book after meeting me on a flight from
Paris and I told him the significance of his living on Rue Fontaine, formerly the heart of 1920s Black Paris.

Friday, June 21, 2013

American-born, French Star, Senegalese Roots: Meet Carole Fredericks

There are only 4 official markers erected for African Americans in Paris: Richard Wright, Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong and Carole D. Fredericks.  Carole who, you ask?

        “Carole was born once in the United States, the land of her parents, of her childhood, of her preparation, of her musical culture. 
         She was born a second time in France, the land of her artistic recognition, her loves and friends, of her pleasures, of her home. 
        Yet a third time she was born in Senegal, the land of her roots, of her heart, perhaps the place where she felt best."
French singer Jean-Jacques Goldman.

Sister Connie Fredericks-Malone outside Carole's former home in the 18th district.  The plaque was erected in 2012

Carole Fredericks was one of France’s most popular singers in the 1990s as part of the French trio Fredericks Goldman Jones and as a solo artist. Yet she was virtually unknown in the U.S.

How does a part-time backup singer who lands in Paris unable to speak any French nor read music become a solo star as well as the favorite backup and session vocalist en français for icons like Serge Gainsbourg, Johnny Hallyday, Vanessa Paradis, Celine Dion to name a few from a very long list?

Let me tell you a bit of her story. 

Determination Meets Destiny

Carole, from Springfield, Mass, was the youngest sister of blues musician Taj Mahal. She grew up in a musical family that instilled pride in their West Indian and African ancestry. After high school she relocated to San Francisco and lent backup vocals to several of her brother’s albums. Refusing to get by on his name though, she also performed with the Oakland New Generation Gospel choir and organized her own trio to play on weekends.

One of her gigs brought her in contact with the people who would open the door to Paris for her.  

If Josephine Can Do It....

In the mid-70s, Carole found herself singing at Napa Valley's first French restaurant, La Belle Helene, in the upstairs art gallery. The pioneering venue was owned by one Gregory Lyons, a 29 year-old self-taught, award-winning chef. According to friend Rose Calderone who met Carole during this time, Lyons and his partner, French-born Philippe, shared their adoration of Josephine Baker with Carole, told her that France loved Josephine and it would love her as well.

 Their support and strong belief in Carole’s talent turned into a concrete plan of several years to get her to Paris, allegedly thanks in part to the restaurant profits. It became Carole’s dream and vision.

Lyons, who spent three months of each year in Paris, timed Carole’s arrival to coincide with a recent Taj Mahal concert in January 1979. He set her up in an apartment, called his friends and barely three weeks after landing Carole found herself working almost immediately as a backup singer.

            Taj Mahal at the Connecticut exhibition 'The Artistic Evolution of Taj Mahal and Carole Fredericks', 2008.                               Photo: M.Gordon

Putting Her Gifts to the Service of Others

Carole put a lot of energy into learning French and because she had an ear for music, the language came easily to her. It wasn't long before she understood the nuances of the language and could sing as if French were her first language. As a result, she accompanied many of France’s top performers including Serge Gainsbourg, Johnny Hallyday, Vanessa Paradis (ex-wife of Johnny Depp), to name a few.

Then came her biggest break.  She got a call from popular singer Jean-Jacques Goldman.

 "That was a turning point for my life. He had seen me shine in my little corner; he allowed me to take center stage," said Carole.

In 1990, she joined Goldman and Welsh-born Michael Jones to form Fredericks Goldman Jones. Their first album sold over a million copies, and catapulted Carole into stardom.

Photo ©Walking The Spirit Tours

Her discography boasts three solo albums, five with Fredricks Goldman Jones, and an extensive list of credits on compilations and celebrity albums.

She was a generous soul, Carole, and liked nothing more than participating in fundraising tours. The benefactors included Make-A-Wish Foundation, Amnesty International, and a Pan-African children’s hospital in Dakar.

Destiny Steps In One More Time

Carole died on June 7, 2001 while on a fundraising tour in Dakar, Senegal. She had celebrated her 49th birthday just two days before.

“Although Carole was profoundly American, she was [a] symbol of the mix of cultures that she represented in the most beautiful way: by her voice, through the music. She lives still in France, through her songs and in many hearts. Through her, it is the America that we love."
Jean Jacques Goldman

The Carole D. Fredericks Legacy Lives On

Her family spearheads the Carole D. Fredericks Foundation (http://www.carolefredericksfoundation.org ) and CDF Music Legacy (http://www.cdfmusiclegacy.com ) . The foundation promotes and supports the teaching of French culture and language in the U.S.  In fact, Carole’s songs and music videos have been transformed into course material that is used by over 2800 schools and colleges.

Thank you to sister Connie Fredericks-Malone for introducing me to this dynamic singer that I used to watch on French TV in the 90s but knew nothing of the details of her life. And thanks for showing and sharing with me Carole Frederick’s touchstones in Paris. Thank you also Rose Calderone for her Napa Valley recollections.

Connie heading for Montmartre Cemetery

Montmartre Cemetery. Looking for section France 23rd Division - Avenue Carrière.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Africa In Paris - Black, White & Brown

Bienvenue à l'Afrique à Paris - Black Blanc Beur*

I’ve witnessed the African district of Paris morph and evolve over the fifteen years I’ve occasionally strolled through it.  It’s vibrant, it’s edgy; it is culture shock to anyone who has spent most of their time in the 'other' Parisian landscape. 

To the mainstream media, the area of Barbès/La Goutte d'Or is labelled ‘problematic’. To the residents though, they are a diverse community surviving through tolerance and a good dose of humor.

Street Mural. The Marianne figure (in red hat)  is the national emblem of France and represents Liberty and Reason.

This corner of the 18th arrondissement remains very much a mystery to outsiders. It’s long been the landing spot for Black and North African new arrivals yet maintains a strong backbone of traditional Catholic French.

Its narrow streets are chock busy with small businesses offering products from ‘home’. It gets even busier on Saturdays when those who have migrated out to the suburbs return to visit relatives and get news from their villages.   

Trying to wind a way through the open air Déjean market is an obstacle course through fresh produce stands and the sidewalk vendors whose quickly-dismounted cardboard displays spill out onto the adjoining streets.

Déjean Market - when you get there early.

Spill off from Marché Déjean

Dust from new construction blows everywhere. The City has been investing heavily in new subsidized housing for 20 years, their goal is to get rid of the unsafe and unsanitary ‘foyers’ rooming houses. Speculation abounds.   

Community services are plentiful, which gives the district a sense of being a town unto itself, taking care of the health, education, integration and leisure of its own.

Employment, Computer Learning Center

Lessons available for learning to read Arabic - the easiest way!

The Arabic and African mosques, the Saint-Bernard church and the Church of the Nazareen all attract their own. 

Funeral services at Eglise Saint-Bernard for world renown Haitian storyteller and local patron Mimi Barthélémy, May 2, 2013.

Fashion designers, locals, and the stylish flock here to have their African-inspired clothes custom made. With pictures torn from magazines, women head for ‘tailors row’ on Rue Myrrha where talented all-purpose tailors turn 6-foot lengths of wax cloth into beautiful, unique pieces. Or they can buy it ready-made, or browse the City-supported Young Designers shops on Rue des Gardes. 

Giving an African touch to an existing design

Works in progress

City subsidized Young Creators workshops and retail space on Rue des Gardes.

I’ve noticed fewer Magrebin businesses this time, which was confirmed by local Jean-Luc Bombeau. As manager of the EcoMusée art gallery and a 20-year neighborhood resident, he says there are fewer artists, too. The area remains however one of the most affordable in the city so artists still gravitate here. Their work is shown at EcoMusée.

EcoMusée gallery with Eglise Saint-Bernard in back.

You can stroll through the district on your own, or you can get a whole other level of understanding with a guide. Here's Thierry, one of our guides, a Fulbright scholar living in the neighborhood for a year.

And, expect the unexpected..... this hidden residential enclave is in the neighborhood, too.

If you would like to discover this neighborhood with us, contact us.

* Black Blanc Beur was a street expression popularized in the 90s to symbolize multiethnic France, a comparison to the national flag which is referred to as the Red, White and Blue. Beur is the slang for Arabic.

Upcoming Events

Open Door - L’Echo Musée de la Goutte d’Or
Art gallery that showcases the works of the many neighborhood artists.
Includes film screenings, workshops, concerts.
May 24-25
For all ages!

Paroles de Nègres - A Poetry Walk with Amadou Gaye
A very personal and moving interpretation of texts of Aime Césaire, Leopold Senghor,
Leon-Gontran Damas (the fathers of Negritude), Birago Diop, Langston Hughes ... to name a few.
Poems that are sung out, shouted out, personalized.  In French.
June 27
La Reine Blanche, Metro La Chapelle.

28th Annual La Goutte’ Or En Fete - La Goutte D’Or Celebrates
Join in the community-wide activities around the Theme: The Voyage and the Elsewhere
June 28 - 30
Includes - a percussion-based parade, arts exhibits, 5-village display in the park, cooking
Workshops, evening dances.