Living in the city since August ‘17 together with her husband Eric. Meet Tawni, executive chef at maman nomad.
when she’s hungry: sunny-side up egg with roasted fingerling potatoes, brussels sprouts & onions topped with crispy prosciutto, olive-caper gremolata & parmesan
when she’s craving something sweet: maman’s nutty chocolate
when you want to treat Tawni to a coffee: black coffee with a
little bit of half & half
I’ve always liked cooking, but when I was 17 and decided to go vegan I had to start cooking for myself in a more creative way. I needed to find ways to eat the things I loved, but with strict
dietary restrictions. At that time there was a smaller community of people practicing veganism, and this community caught my attention and taught me a lot about food culture. I started working for these two women, Brittney and Karen, at a place called Prasad (in Portland, OR). It was a health food, vegan and vegetarian restaurant. Working for them really helped me grow as a cook and showed me that there are really accessible ways to run a restaurant as a woman.
I stopped being vegan when I was 21 because I wanted to expand my palate and grow as a cook. For a long time, I was only cooking vegan and vegetarian but I really felt the need to taste new things. Every time I travel I don’t want to limit myself and I want to be able to experience the culture as a whole . I still use my experience with vegan cooking to make dishes that are full of grains, legumes & vegetables. It’s a main part of my diet and I think it should be for anyone wanting to live a healthy lifestyle.
“I wanted to grow in my career
as a cook”
My mom cooked for us every day, and her parents owned a couple of restaurants when she was growing up. I didn’t go to culinary school because I got a really good base from her, and I wanted to worked my way up and gain real life experience by working closely with other chefs in different kitchens.
I have always really loved going to France. When I was looking for a job in the city and found Maman I immediately liked the aesthetic of it. I have always dreamed of living abroad and working for maman feels like one step closer to this. Also, I like working in a small team environment, it’s much more personal, and allows people to get closer. I’m not really into large fancy five-star restaurant type of kitchens.
I’ve been describing Maman as “new French”. Similar to the term “new American”, where you create a more modern way of American cooking. Not just burgers and steak, but cooking with exciting and diverse flavor profiles. So that’s why I’m using “new French” to describe the French base but combined with American and Mediterranean flavors.
I really like making the brussel sprouts and the waffle dishes at Maman. They look really beautiful on the plate. If you serve something and it’s gorgeous, you’re immediately going to enjoy it more. Even if it’s not the best version of it you’ve ever had. But if you get a plate and it’s not that interesting to look at, your expectations are already lower. It’s the same with the restaurant setting and atmosphere.
“I worked my way up”
I get my inspiration from cook books or magazines, eating in other restaurants and playing with recipes from other chefs. You can compare cooking with math. There’s this basic formula but you can put different ingredients or amounts in it, and it will produce a new dish.
My favorite chef is Eloise Augustyn, the woman who owns Sweedeedee in Portland, OR, it is one of my favorite places. She’s not one of those silly rock star chefs, but casual and real life. I really appreciate and admire Chefs who stay humble, and try to practice this myself. Oh, and I love Martha Stewart.
My future goal is to have my own establishment one day. A small breakfast cafe with intimate seating. It would be amazing to do it abroad, or maybe somewhere similar to Portland. I want to be self-sufficient and not work for someone else someday, to have a little more freedom in what I do, to have a restaurant that is my home.