Hello everyone! Welcome back to Living abroad, a series that shows what expat life is like in cities around the world. Our latest interview features pastry chef Molly, who moved from Dallas to Paris to attend pastry school at the Cordon Bleu. He now lives in Versailles, France François, his French partner and their adorable dog Elliot.
Here’s a glimpse into her dreamy life in France…
Hello! I’m Molly Wilkinson. I am originally from Dallas, TX and teach pastry classes at Versailles. I live in an 18th century apartment with François, my French partner, and Elliot, our dog.
I moved to attend pastry school at Le Cordon Bleu and really fell in love with the city, particularly the culture around food and amazing ingredients. After my visa expired I went back to Texas and then went back and worked at a few pastry shops and even a ch.âteau — to gain experience.
In his old world apartment. Our apartment is about a five-minute walk from Versaillesâteau in the neighborhood of St. Louis. The building was built in the 18th century and is full of charm. Our apartment is full of light, still has the original hardwood floors and huge mirrors on the mantles. I use one of the rooms to teach my pastry classes. I planted red geraniums in flower boxes and filled cupboards with pastry tools and antique cake stands. In the middle of the room is a large antique French farmhouse table where I create.
When moving to Versailles. Versailles is full of history and charm. There’s a lot more to the city than just Château. It is quite spacious and does not have small windy medieval streets like some nearby towns. It is quiet, traditional and has beautiful architecture. It’s only 30 minutes from Paris by train, so we have the peace of living outside the big city, but can also easily pop in when needed. There are two main districts in Versailles: the Saint-Louis quarter and the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Both have impressive churches and markets. There’s also a horse-drawn carriage museum to explore, and even a local flour mill.
About becoming a confectioner. I baked from a very young age, but all were American treats like my favorite chocolate chip cookies and brownies. It wasn’t until I came to Paris at the age of 26 that I began to learn the art of Frenchcanteen Going to school for culinary arts is difficult. you’re on your feet all day and there’s some pressure to get everything right the first time. I liked it though. With each piece I learned more and became more confident.
After graduating, I interned at a small pastry shop in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, where I was the only person besides the two female pastry chefs who ran the place. I learned so much and went on to work at several bakeries both in the US and France. Culinary art is a field where you are constantly learning, which makes it quite interesting.
I focus on pcanteen In circles p:âtisserie, you have several different specialties like candy, chocolate and even ice cream. Making individual bread from the bakery (boulangerie), and yeast pastries (viennoiserie), like croissants. In the US, the word pastry often refers to anything sweet that is French, like eclairs and cakes, but also croissants, when in fact they are two completely different fields.
About learning French. I consider myself to have an intermediate level of French. Learning the language when living in a foreign country is very important. It opens doors, but it also allows you to experience more of the culture and feel more like you belong. As for advice, I would say make a French friend and try to surround yourself with French speaking people. I also work regularly with a tutor. When I lived in Paris, I learned French Mary (town hall). This is a great tip for people living there. It’s very cheap and a good way to learn quickly.
About making friends. Joining different activity groups helps, but I’ve even made friends in the area through Instagram. Elliot is also quite the mascot and conversation starter.
About acquaintances. Dating in France is very different than in the US. Basically, there is no familiarity. either you’re together or you’re not. Yes, the first 1-2 dates are tests to see what you think, then pretty soon you’re in a relationship. Also, there is no “discussion” of “are we boyfriend and girlfriend?” I tried to do that with Fran onceçois and it was pretty fun. He said that we are together, we are happy and that is what matters. no need to ask or label.
Regarding the value of life. I find living in Versailles to be like living in Dallas. I buy a lot from the market for fruits and vegetables and they are much cheaper than even buying from the supermarkets here.
About living in France as an American. It was great. But it’s also about how you approach things. I love living here and I try to spread that positivity in all areas of my life, and maybe they can feel that. I am also familiar with the customs after living here for more than six years and speaking the language.
Even visiting, Americans are very welcoming. Just great people Bonjour walking into a shop or restaurant or starting a conversation. That is the best advice. Add “Madame or Monsieur” and you’ll get a smile for your efforts.
About French fashion. Fashion in France will vary from city to city and of course for different generations. Fashion in Versailles is very different than in Paris. In Versailles it is quite traditional, longer skirts, trousers, nice shirts or dresses, in neutral tones or florals. Is there a Red Pants thing going on here? Seriously. In Paris, it is very fashionable, trendy and almost everything. That’s what makes people-watching so much fun.
About living in France during Covid-19. It was very quiet. During the detentions, especially the first one, we really stayed inside, shopped for food and watched a lot of movies. Fortunately, we have a bit more space than the 9 m2 (100 sq m) apartment I had in Paris. The pandemic also forced me to quickly flip my business model from in-person pastry classes to online classes, and it’s been incredible. I am now reaching more people than ever before, and people who live all over the world.
The missing house. Aside from my family and friends, the thing I miss the most is tacos.
About the best part of living in Versailles. I love how I call it home now. I walk the streets and see people I know. I have my favorite places and I feel comfortable here. Also, there is something special about the Gardens of Versailles as a place where I walk my dog.
About the worst part of living in Versailles. Bureaucracy is pretty scary. I like to say that France makes you work for it.
About the desire to live in Versailles for a long time. Ouch!
(Photos by Molly Crystal Kenny, Joan Pye and Claire Emmaline).
P.S. What it’s really like to live as an expat in France and how to make friends in a new city.
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