Musings from The Bon Bon Queen's Chaise Lounge

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Most Likely to Succeed?

I'm a member of Ladies Who Launch, a fabulous network of female entrepreneurs across the country. Each week, they ask members to write about a topic relevant to entrepreneurs. When I saw that this week's topic was "leaving the corporate world", I decided to weigh in with my thoughts and experiences about doing just that:

In high school, I was voted Most Likely to Succeed. Determined to live up to the prophecy, a decade later I found myself climbing a Madison Avenue corporate ladder as a headhunter for more than three hundred multinational corporations. I lived in a great Upper East Side apartment, earned an impressive salary, and worked more than sixty hours a week. Some might have said that I was well on my way to achieving that high school superlative, but something was missing. I didn’t feel successful.

On my quest to unravel the truth about success, I discovered a quote by Norman Lear. He said, “Success is how you collect your minutes. You spend millions of minutes to reach one triumph, one moment, then you spend maybe a thousand minutes enjoying it…. If you were unhappy through those millions of minutes, what good are those few minutes of triumph?” I was spending millions of minutes sitting behind a desk in exchange for money that I used to rent an apartment I didn’t even have the time to enjoy.

A few years later, I found the courage to trade in the paychecks, the security, the weekly manicures and the expensive haircuts for the minutes. Eight months ago, my French husband and I moved back to my hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina and started South ‘n France, an artisanal company that makes hand-dipped chocolate bon bons. My experience in the first Wilmington, NC, Ladies Who Launch incubator helped us to generate free publicity for the company and take the leap to secure a business loan for our first national candy trade show, where our bon bons were voted Best New Chocolate Product.

These days, instead of a business suit, my professional attire consists of a huge pink hat decorated with cakes and candies and bon bons. We converted an old luncheonette into our bon bon factory, and now my commute takes about thirty seconds—the time to walk from our living quarters to the 39-by-14-foot kitchen where we produce, pack and ship our product. I’m still working more than sixty hours a week and I’ve yet to earn a salary, but I’m loving every minute of it. I’ve found my version of success.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Autobiography of a Foodie

Is one born a foodie or does one become a foodie? The question is one of those causality dilemmas like "Which first, the chicken of the egg?" My answer? "I don't really care; I like both!"

As a three-year-old, I spent countless hours playing in my toy kitchen. I had a mini-refrigerator, a tiny stove, and a wooden sink with no plumbing. As an eight-year-old, I coveted my cousin's Mini Bake Oven. In my teens, I moved into my mother's kitchen to bake cookies and cheesecakes and apple crumbles. Years later, I would rediscover a kitchen that reminded me of my first wooden toy kitchen. In my apartment in Paris. I had a college-sized refrigerator, a hot plate, and a sink that looked like the ones you find in airplane lavatories. But it was in that kitchen, that I created some of my most memorable meals. I quickly learned that the magic of food is not dependent on the latest sub-zero freezer and fire brick oven; it's about the ingredients, the chemistry, and that "je ne sais quoi" a person who truly adores food adds to the taste of even the simplest of meals.

I lived in Paris, I loved in Paris, and I eventually married a Frenchman from the restaurant world-take about a foodie's dream! For years, I worked for a cruise line and traveled to Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, Morocco, Israel, Mexico and lots of other countries where cuisine is king. I've eaten fish caught before my eyes in Mediterranean waters; I've sipped Madeira in Madeira; I've eaten Mejoul dates off the palm trees in Jordan; I've devoured warm croissants from the best bakeries in France. But, a food snob, I am not. I also love Hardee's hamburgers, Chick-Fil-A sandwiches slathered in mayonnaise, cream cheese icing straight from the can, Doritos, Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies, and on rare occasions, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.



I'll try anything once-including fried fish heads, a delicacy in Cyprus-and I like just about everything. The short list of things I just don't eat is pretty darn short: oysters, octopus, pig's feet, and those fried fish heads. Being a true Francophile, I do like escargots, pate, duck, rabbit, frog's legs, caviar, and stinky cheeses.



When I'm not eating food, I'm usually thinking about, talking about, or preparing whatever I'm going to eat next. My husband, Pascal, (a former maitre d' at the four-star restaurant Daniel Boulud in New York City) and I both love to cook, so we don't eat out as much as most Wilmington residents. But when we do......ooh la la! It is an event!



And, I shouldn't forget to tell you that our business is food: chocolate to be more specific; hand-dipped bon bons to be exact (http://www.southnfrance.com). When I'm not eating for my own pleasure, I'm making decadent desserts for your pleasure.



So that's a little intro about my life as a foodie. The icing on my seven-layer foodie cake. How I was born a foodie, or how I became one, and how I will certainly always be one. Rest assured that in my postings on this blog I'll be sharing recipe and food-related philosophy with lots of input from my Frenchie husband about everything culinary right here in our own little corner of the world, Wilmywood.



A bientot!

Charlene, The Bon Bon Queen

South ‘n France, Inc.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Greetings from the Queen

Darlings!

Thanks to the marvelous technology of the modern-age, I have found a way to recline on my fainting couch, bon bons by my side, and send sweet little messages to all of my friends in cyberspace too. A proper fainting couch is a must-have for any true Southern Belle (I have two so far--one in my parlor, one in my bedroom). I'm oh-so-jealous of a dear friend who has one in her kitchen! I just love the idea of stirring some homemade pudding, putting a little roast chicken in the oven, and then restoring oneself with a nice glass of merlot while reclining on the couch....

Speaking of merlot, here is a little French lesson for you. In other parts of the country, people refer to the fainting couch as a chaise lounge. In French, it is actually "Chaise Longue", which literally means "Long Chair"(or "Chair Long" if you want to get really technical).

Somewhere along the way, a charming dyslexic soul reversed the letters and turned the Chaise Longue into a Chaise Lounge. Makes sense, though, doesn't it? These marvels of architecture are indeed perfect for lounging!

It's so warm here today, I'm feeling a little faint and my bon bons need to be chilled once again, so I'll sign off for now.

A bientot mes chers amis! A bientot.....