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Paris by Mouth: Meg Zimbeck Speaks

Story and photos by Richard Nahem, Eye Prefer Paris Correspondent

Food and travel writer Meg Zimbeck is the proud mother (her words) of Paris by Mouth, a comprehensive and popular site with over 1,000 pages about food and drink in Paris. Meg and I met a few years ago when we first started blogging and it’s been nice to watch her exciting progress as a respected food writer and avid Paris foodie.

Where were you born and where did you grow up?

I grew up in a plain vanilla suburb of Kansas City and was a terribly unadventurous eater. I subsisted on meat, cheese, and tomato sauce in one form or another (burgers, tacos, pizza) until I was around twenty years old. It’s not really fair to blame the Midwest or my parents for this, but it wasn’t until I moved away that I had any sort of food awakening.

What brought you to Paris and how long have you lived here?

I’ve been in Paris for six years, and I spent the first five of these working for a health research institute on a project relating to women’s reproductive health in the EU. I told people at parties that I was “analyzing the European vagina,” but in truth it was pretty dry statistical stuff. I was blogging on the side, though, and this surprisingly led to paid work and then more paid work and eventually I made the leap to full-time writing.

How and when did you get the idea for Paris by Mouth? Also, how did you get such top food writers to come on board? Did you have to bribe them?

The answer is going to reveal my inner nerd but here goes… I learned in my previous job that complex problems were best tackled by summarizing the available literature (as we do with food news and reviews in The Daily Bite and by asking a group of authorities (our contributing editors) to debate and decide upon important questions. It’s the same approach that I used in health policy research, but instead of infant mortality the important questions are “where can I eat on Sunday?” and “who has the best baguette?” I still don’t know how I was able to persuade food writing heros like Dorie Greenspan, Patricia Wells, Alexander Lobrano, and Clotilde Dusoulier to come on board, but I thank my lucky stars every day. I’m also incredibly grateful to Barbra Austin, our Assistant Editor and a talented food writer in her own right, who is responsible for stocking Our Guide to Paris with hundreds of pages that summarize the published reviews for our selection of restaurants, wine bars, bakeries and pastry shops. We’re all working on this for free, so the fact that it’s grown into such a big thing just blows me away.

What are some of the latest food trends in Paris?

Wine bars that serve food have been popping up all over in the past year, and it’s been nice to have more options that don’t require advance booking or a three-course commitment. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good four-hour meal, but wine bars are great for those nights when you just want to nibble without breaking the bank.

Do you cook or are you one of those foodies who knows everything about food but doesn’t know how to boil water? If you do cook, what French dishes do you like to prepare?

I do cook, and I love doing it in France where the quality of ingredients (cream so thick a spoon will stand straight up) is so high that I appear more talented than I really am. However, my cooking has changed a lot since I started spending so much time in restaurants. On the off nights at home I make a lot of healthy soups and salads to counterbalance the gallons of duck fat that I regularly consume. I suppose the most French thing about my meals at home is the ritual can’t-live-without-it cheese course.

How did you get into food writing and were you always a foodie or did you become one once you moved her?
No, I was most definitely not interested in food as a young person (unless you consider Ro-Tel dip to be a food). My culinary curiosity was piqued when I began working in restaurants during college, and this continued during the years I spent living in the great food cities of Chicago and Boston. It wasn’t until I moved to France and was thrown into something so completely foreign that I became interested in the stories behind the food.

How many times a week do you eat out and what places do you frequent in your neighborhood?

I’m probably out 3-5 times per week, but some of these meals are lunch and others are just glorified (snacky) wine sessions. And I almost never eat in my neighborhood, between La Villette and the Buttes Chaumont in the 19th arrondissement. The parks here are beautiful, but the food is rotten. The exceptions to this rule are Le Chapeau Melon, a table d’hôte with beautiful food and remarkable wine, and O Divin, a simple but tasty neighborhood wine bar. I’m admittedly jealous of those who can stumble out their door and into a great restaurant, but the necessary bike ride between me and dinner is probably not a bad thing.

What do you prefer about Paris?

The food obviously.

Richard Nahem is a native New Yorker who now lives in Paris. A successful New York City event planner and producer of cultural events, he has worked with many celebrities including Sarah Jessica Parker, Whitney Houston, and Joan Rivers. After a teenage trip to Paris made him an instant Francophile, he visited the city frequently until he made it his home (in 2005). With 25 years of rave reviews from friends and colleagues, Richard decided to take his own private tours of “his” Paris public. His goal for Eye Prefer Paris Tours is to provide fun, adventurous, and exciting tours of Paris for the independent-spirited traveler.

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2 Responses to “Paris by Mouth: Meg Zimbeck Speaks”

  1. Sari says:

    I love Meg’s blog! Thanks for bringing some additional insights into one of my favorites!

  2. Kim says:

    Fab interview and I love the first photo!

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