Move to Paris, Live the Dream
Meet Laurel Sanderson owner of Treize…a baker’s dozen.
A Mama from the USA who made 13 her lucky number
“Hey, Honeyyyy!” She exclaims, through a wide smile, revealing her Southern American drawl, as you enter her premises. Match that with her enthusiasm, sassiness, and quirky style and you have the personability of Laurel Sanderson, captured in a blink! Welcoming, fun and clearly determined – I like her immediately. She has a bottle of wine and two glasses at the table, in preparation for our interview. It’s late-afternoon, it’s quiet and she’s found time between juggling her restaurant business and looking after her two young children (now 10 and 12) to spend a little time with Mama Loves Paris.
Trieze…A baker’s dozen is a small charming restaurant in Paris, offering a fusion of European and American dishes, in the most picturesque setting on the edge of the 6th arrondissement
MLP had been lucky enough to taste the scrumptious home from home, heart warming culinary delights of Ms. Sanderson before – thanks to a friend who insisted we try it out. We couldn’t find it at first because it was set back so far from the road, but for MLP this just added to the charm and the mystery of this hidden gem!
“When we did finally realize where it was, Treize (13) looked poised, nestled comfortably in the back of a cobbled courtyard, flanked by ornate vases whilst being gently hugged by blossoming foliage. Wow! “it looked so beautiful!” MLP’s intrigue and curiosity were most definitely heightened.
Laurel Sanderson is from Charleston, one of Americas’ most loved Southern cities, and home to the famous dance that high-kicked its way through the roaring twenties. She’s lived in France for 21 years and has had several different jobs before becoming a restaurant entrepreneur! She worked as a waitress, tried event planning for a while, the OECD and even took a turn as a ‘food specialist’ tour guide! But it was her love of baking and cooking (especially pies!) that finally led her to live the dream and open her own restaurant in Paris.
Here is our interview.
Laurel: “I moved to France 21 years ago, I went to school in the East then I moved to Paris. I loved learning to speak French and I loved lots of things about French culture, but the thing that I really hated was that I was always l’American! (The American!) So when I moved to Paris it was great that I wasn’t the only American and at the same time I wasn’t just an American, I was a woman, a mother and these things became significant- I felt accepted here.”
“Paris is one of those places, that if you work hard enough you can make a niche for yourself“
MLP: Did you find it easy to infiltrate Paris then?
Laurel: “Yes – I was incredibly persistent – and also after being in a very small town with a very small town mentality – Paris took me in with open arms.
That doesn’t mean that Paris is not a bitch in many ways – there are times when I get bitch slapped by the city but..it’s incredibly beautiful!
I was meant to be here for three days…then I was like…this is an awesome town…because you hear so many awful things about Paris when you don’t live in it.”
MLP: Like what? Was this coming from people who lived outside the capital?
Laurel: “Yes exactly! They said Parisians were sad and that the city is big, it’s dirty, nasty, snobby, you don’t want to live there, don’t go to Paris , It’s a waste of time. So it never occurred to me that I would want to stay in Paris – but I stayed a couple of days and then the city pulled me in!
I got a job as a waitress, got a place to live, things just clicked. I met my husband…it just all fell into place.
It wasn’t easy all the time, I had to work for it, but you know there is a huge anglophone community here.
“They say life gives you lemons you make lemonade, but here in Paris – you have to find the freaking tree! And make sure that you can grow the lemons……if you are ready to push you can make it happen.”
MLP: When did this dream all start for you?
Laurel: “I started cooking about ten years ago when I took maternity leave for my son. I started baking because I missed home. Charleston, South Carolina– known for our cooking, (she smiles) soul food! We’re proud of our food culture – low country cooking – shrimp and grits as an example.”
We discuss grits for a while – we laugh a lot! MLP hates grits!
“I would bake and then have to go to work, doing event planning and other office based stuff. My husband was incredibly encouraging. It’s basically a matter of getting your foot in the door. I got my first job baking with a girlfriend who gave me a shot- then I worked in several kitchens where I learnt a lot! Then started figuring out what I wanted to do, in my own way!”
MLP: When did you make the leap?
Laurel: “Within 6 months, me and some girlfriends launched a bakery – we got a loan and it all kind of worked. It wasn’t easy but we were persistent.
Our biggest challenge was getting it all lined up and getting visas, this was back in the day when, people were looking for ways for the economy to grow – and we were developing at the right time. We worked together for nearly 3 years.”
“Then, I had the chance to go it alone and I had an idea to do something different”
“The opportunity to move on came my way and I didn’t think, I just moved with it – I had a year out – with a lot of day drinking (she laughs) – before finally deciding. So I filled my time by working for CONTEXT a tour company – a great tour company that works with experts – so I did food tours.
At the same time, a friend of mine (David Lebovitz) was writing a cookbook and he wanted to include one of my recipes! He has always been like an awesome mentor to me, very caring, cool and such a wise and great friend. So he asked me for my carrot cake recipe which is now in, My Paris Kitchen: Recipes and Stories. He told me that once he had referenced me I would have a new place!
But, unconvinced, I carried on doing tours, looking after the kids and then at the same time, this place came up!
I had been exploring the city for the tours, when the kids wandered into this courtyard. It was basically derelict- the walls were all gold and the vibe was so different.”
“I decided that I was only going to do this if, it I could negotiate directly with the proprietor and only if she was nice and… she was lovely! I then spoke to my accountant”
MLP: How long did it take?
Laurel: “From first time seeing it which was April. I got the keys in September – so it took 6 months. I had a broker – that helped – I had a great lawyer, banker, and accountant. There were a few bankers that were interested in the project – it’s all about creating a support team.”
MLP: When did the name come into the picture?
Laurel: “That was so funny. I have always loved the idea of the baker’s dozen.”
“It’s cool because it encompasses the whole idea of generosity, that goes along with hospitality”
Laurel: “I love the idea that a baker’s dozen is 13 and I remember that I was having lunch – with a friend who was saying; ‘13 a baker’s dozen is all too much, too long‘. Then I see across the street, out of the corner of my eye, a place called ‘Hello I love you, tell me your name‘ – and I thought – people are going to be fine with it. I wanted to call it that, I thought it was cool…so it stuck”
MLP: Talk me through the vision. What is Treize?
Laurel: “The idea was to just create a feeling – a warm feeling and allow the neighbourhood to dictate some of that. I started with the idea of it being a tea room – I wanted to have really good tea, and really good cakes I wanted to do a couple of bits and pieces for lunch.
The whole idea of having the dining room and the kitchen in the same room was great, because you can see what’s going on and we can see how people are enjoying the experience.”
“When it started there weren’t even twenty seats – now we have 25”
“It’s really a matter of listening and understanding what people want, and letting the menu just develop from what we are doing.”
“For example, the veggies & chicken salad is one of the nine things on the menu and we sell a lot of it. It was one of our regular clients who works around the corner, who came in and said ‘ya know…I’m on a diet & I wanna salad, I know that you have chicken from that chicken pie – could you just throw some of that chicken in the oven for me‘ and that salad, started from there. At the time my intern was like ok… so what if we marinate the chicken? How can we make this taste incredible without adding calories? So we marinated it in white wine and buttermilk and other things”.
“I wanted to go to the market –and get amazing stuff! To become inspired? I go to a place close to my house, called Marche Monge in the 5th. There is a great guy there who sells organic food – Jerome, who tells me what’s in season. I base the dishes on what is available and that works for me.”
MLP: How is your heritage integrated into your food?
Laurel: “The whole southern thing kinda happened by accident… well not completely because that is where I am from. We have Chicken fried Chicken which we prepare to fry and then actually bake it! Buttermilk biscuits too, which is a nod to my hometown. Luck and Money – we eat it in the south on New Years Day – greens, black eye peas, and our version has developed from that.”
MLP: What dishes are super popular?
“Favourites are the Chicken and Mushroom pie, the Killer Broccoli Mushroom pie which is based on my mum’s recipe and has Pecorino truffle. We totally cater for vegetarians. At first, the French were confused thinking it was a veggie resto but no, we serve chicken and bacon too – gotta have bacon –it’s a Southern thang!”
MLP can vouch for the delicious cuisine here and it’s great value too, at around €20/25 per person for two courses and a drink!
As the interview and the wine come to an end, Laurel lovingly talks about her children and how much she adores raising her Parisian kids with her British husband. She relishes in them having an awesome childhood growing up in Paris.
MLP asks Laurel for a couple of tips for non-french Mamas in Paris.
“My favourite place to go with the kids is Jardin des Plantes – it has everything: dinosaurs, painting, a zoo, a museum, it’s so easy. For food, we order in! We like ‘Take it Easy’ and you can order our food from there too. Finally, if you are new to the city, join Message – it’s a great resource if you don’t know anyone.”
We hug as MLP prepares to leave this adorable restaurant in Paris – but not before buying a few slices of Laurels’ famous carrot cake which, I just have to take home for the kids! It is truly spectacular.
Heading out the door from this magical and cosy space, reeling from this inspiring story of one Mamas successful mission… a fitting remark from Laurel stays with me.
“Be brave, put yourself out there”
She is proof that if you do, you can make great things happen, that make you happy. Treize is a super cool restaurant in Paris- a very special find. MLP cannot wait to take the whole family there for lunch one day soon.
If you are an expat and want to set up your own business in Paris and need support – try reaching out to Anglopreneurs – a Facebook group that supports women trying to visualize their dream in Paris.
Thank you all for reading. It has taken MLP a long time to put this interview together. Please like this post and comment if you enjoyed it and /or found it useful. Every like is a hi-five, which would be very much appreciated. Subscribe to Mama Loves Paris to receive our newsletter. Follow us on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook too.
Thank you, Laurel!
Visit Treize…a baker’s dozen at 16 Rue des Saints-Pères, 75007 Paris. Enjoy their breakfast, lunches and cakes. Great picnic fodder and brunches too.
Live the Dream!