‘Maman: The Cookbook’ is Almost Too Pretty to Eat

A box sitting on top of a wooden table

Maman has achieved a special place in the pecking order of NYC French bakeries. It’s a highly successful franchise, but each of its eight New York locations feels local. It sits comfortably half way between cult darling and reliable chain, a seat at your mom’s hand-carved dinner table in rural Provence in the middle of one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities.

Founded by husband and wife duo Benjamin Sormonte and Elisa Marshall, Maman has always brought together simple, delicious French food and impeccable, homey ambiance. Benjamin, a Frenchman, and Elisa, a Canadian, were inspired by their mothers, and their familial relationships with food, when they opened their first location in Soho in 2014. They quickly became adored for their famous cookies and their iconic blue-and-white patterned dishware, with its French country chic aesthetic. The idea was always to create a place that felt like home. But now, you can bring a little more of Maman into yours.

Sormonte and Marshall, in collaboration with cookbook pro Lauren Salkeld, are about to release Maman: The Cookbook, full of “all-day recipes to warm your heart.” From Elisa’s famous naked cakes to tarts, quiches, and sandwiches, the book has recipes for all of your Maman favorites. The book opens with letters from Benjamin and Elisa’s mamans (to whom the book is dedicated), who describe how their relationship with food has been influenced by their relationship with family, and vice versa.

The recipes are divided into three sections: Sunrise (with both sweet and savory breakfasts), All-Day Café (for your quiche, sandwich, salad, and soup needs), and Sweets and Sips (tasty beverages and even tastier cookies, cakes, and tarts).

The introduction tells the story of how Benjamin and Elisa met, across several years of failed setups and accidental run-ins. It’s a story of love and food, and love for food, and the improbable success of two people with no formal culinary training opening an ever-expanding series of favorite neighborhood eateries. “We hope you’ll think of this book as a scrapbook, a place where you can gather and record your ideas and inspirations,” it reads. “Don’t be afraid to scribble on the pages and jot down your ideas. When it comes time for you to pass these recipes on to your loved ones, you’ll want them to know how you made them your own.” Appropriately, each recipe includes its own little “notes” section.

But the informal DIY attitude has one major flaw: the book is so beautiful that writing in it would feel like sacrilege. As immaculately put together as the cafes themselves, every page of Maman: The Cookbook is gorgeous. It carries the blue-and-white motif, whether in teacups, aprons, or a subtle backsplash, and every perfectly executed photo will spike both your hunger and your artistic appreciation.

The recipes themselves are straightforward and range from relatively simple to lengthy, but not overwhelming. After all, they’re designed for and by home cooks. There’s even a cheat sheet for translating home cook intuition (a “pinch” of this, a “splash” of that) into concrete measurements. Some of the secret ingredients might surprise you, like using seltzer water in crepes or pureed kale in crème fraîche pancakes. There’s also a lot of love for using liquors like bourbon or Grand Marnier to perk up a dish. Some recipes are quite French, like mushroom-gruyère crepes, while others, like bourbon bacon jam, lean on the New American side.

From the equipment list through the final recipe (a tomatillo-infused take on a Bloody Mary), Maman: The Cookbook is an accessible and inspirational collection that will look as amazing on your shelf as its recipes will look on your table. It’s a book you’ll want to share with everyone you know, a couple hundred pages of French hospitality in the palm of your hand.

A close up of a sign


Get your weekly dose of Frenchly’s news.

Read more

Frenchly newsletter.

A close up of a sign

Get your weekly dose of Frenchly’s news.

Frenchly Newsletter.

A close up of a sign

Get your weekly dose of Frenchly stuff.