Kate Powers’ Birthday

A special family afternoon at Stars’n’Bars will honour Kate Powers birthday on Saturday, July 16th. The event is being organised by the Kate Powers Foundation, which was set up to continue her dedicated work on bettering the well-being of the community and the environment.

“Kate left us on August 30th and we miss her,” the Foundation says. “Her love and sense of fun made every event at Stars’n’Bars so memorable, we miss it.”

Volunteers from the Kate Powers Foundation will be raising money through various games for children and adults – three-legged race, egg spoon race, pétanque – as well there will be an inflatable castle, face painting, meditations and a sound bath, a wellness corner and a raffle with Kate-appropriate prizes (see below). There will also be a silent disco and a dunk tank.

Stop by between 4pm to 10ish (no reservations necessary) and pay tribute to our friend Kate while supporting the Foundation that bears her name. Entry is €30.

Food and drink (salad bar, cake, cookies, wine, Blue Coast Beer and Kombucha …) not included. More details will be revealed in coming weeks but I can confirm Mickie and Minnie Mouse will be on hand for photos.

Every time you say the words “I miss Kate”, follow that up with “How can I help?”

Tombola donations

  • Blue Coast Beer
  • Signed football shirt ( Lisa/Steph Morandi) Monaco FC
  • 2 vouchers for Zumba classes (Lisa Parker/Morandi)
  • 1 reflexology (Keah Lan, Senses)
  • Advanced Body Management (Kylie Tomich)
  • Azur Chiropractic (Julie Reynolds)
  • Craniosacral therapy session (Lucy Coote)
  • Meal for 2 at Piazza
  • Annette Shine yoga
  • Bon Cadeaux Treatment (Fanny Rigaud)
  • 100 cupcakes (Nicky Johnson)
  • Birthday cake (Angie Roberts)

EOLA

Cedric Fruneau at his restaurant EOLA at Place d’Armes. Photo: Nancy Heslin

Cedric “Cedou” Fruneau is not your typical young Frenchman. He gets restless when he takes a week off work and while he just opened his Monaco restaurant EOLA in June 2019, he’s already expanding with a Bistro and speakeasy next door.

Cedric, a professional photographer for Nike, says he has always loved to work but a year and a half spent working in Miami proved to be a real game changer in terms of his work ethic. “When I first arrived in the U.S in 2016, I quickly learned that if you don’t work, you have no money to pay the bills or the rent. When I came back to France it was horrible to see the lack of motivation.”

Travel has played a big role in Cedric’s life. He spent a gap year in London improving his English and lived in Paris. With his Mexican girlfriend Daya (they met at a Mexican restaurant in Nice), the couple trekked around the globe for two years. “We found that it didn’t matter where we were, we could never find a cool café that was healthy and affordable.”

So when they returned to the Riviera, they opened just that in Monaco. Tucked away under the arcades of Place d’Armes, EOLA is a hip “healthy place, promote healthy lifestyle and foods,” where people sip on almond milk cappuccinos while tucking into an Acai bowl. “A lot of foreigners living in Monaco – British, American, Germans, Swedish – come here in the morning after yoga or running because they can find what they are used to back home.”

Between Acai bowls (€9), toast breakfasts (€9) and Poke bowls (€14), vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians and meat lovers will be appeased here. Even Elvis would be happy to see the peanut butter and banana on toast option (€5.50)

“Look, I didn’t invent anything,” Cedric explains. “Avocado toast and Acai bowls have been around for a while but our concept is good – we give people what they expect. And we keep everything simple, because eventually I hope to franchise.”

Still, EOLA’s style is unique, especially for Monaco, and if it was a clothing label, it would be what everyone is wearing.. “When we set up with our round marble tables and wicker chairs, which is different than the other restaurants here, everyone raised an eyebrow. We want to do things differently.”

As an added allure, the dedicated coffee barista can “print” messages and pictures onto your café au lait (no extra charge). And there’s a cold press juicer on site to make a limited amount of the power drink daily, but if they’re sold out, you are out of luck. In keeping with their healthy lifestyle ethos, the restaurant also uses NoPlastic packaging, designed to have a low environmental impact.

EOLA (Eat Organic Live Active), which means “take care of yourself” in Hawaiian, is building a local clientele, which is essential to sustain business. “Even with Covid around, I want customers to leave here happy. Positive brings positive.” Certainly their team really brings this to the table.

During the first confinement in March, EOLA had to close its doors like other restaurants and that was tough for the new business. “Honestly, on the street around us you could see fear in people’s eyes. It wasn’t a good feeling so we shut down but, you know, after a busy first year of business, this wasn’t a bad thing. We focused on our plans and our suppliers, and decided what we wanted to do.” They also spent time with their one-year old. “We did it all in one year, a new business, a new baby and Covid.”

Cedric and Daya decided to offer some items as delivery or take away post-confinement from May 4, and ended up delivering from 8 am to 8 pm in Monaco. They eventually want to open a ghost kitchen in Beausoleil that can take care of deliveries because Cedric has bigger plans on the horizon.

The entrepreneur has taken over two shops on the other side of Valycris coiffeur. “I’m going to have three different concepts,” explains Cedric. “EOLA, a French bistro and a speakeasy.”

He hopes to open the French bistro in early 2021 and then six months later, the speakeasy. “There are no cool places anymore, it’s now all about how we are dressed. We are not going to do that. This will be a place that you’ll know how to get in by word of mouth. But it’s not for tourists and phone cameras will not be allowed so the F1 drivers and football players who are our customers don’t have to worry about their photos being taken.”

Cedric continues with his passion of photography (check out his Instagram) because he wants to keep his creative side alive, but the future is about expanding EOLA. “I can’t pass on ‘my eye for photography’ to my son. That is something you either have or you don’t. But I can teach him about the restaurant business.”

Open Monday to Saturday, 8:30 am to 6 pm

EOLA
11 Place d’Armes, Monaco

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco

Les 5 Saveurs à Monaco

Have you taken a walk up in Monaco Ville lately? The situation is heartbreaking. Streets typically filled with the bustle of tourists are at a standstill. Shops and restaurants, some having to pay out €6,000 a month in rent, are facing extinction. As one elderly Monegasque women made clear to me: “Monaco Ville est mort.”

Alexandra Rinaldi, who owns Les 5 Saveurs à Monaco on rue Basse, is trying to survive. No stranger to the Monaco business scene, the Monegasque took over her parent’s business, Rinaldi Ship Chandler, which opened in 1970 on Quai Antoine, and before that, in 2010, she ran Les Trésors de la Mer, a clothing and decoration shop on rue de Millo in La Condamine.

Having sold both businesses, she had the opportunity to open a boutique in Monaco Ville that could cater to both Monaco residents and tourists. “The community on the Rock is elderly but we have people who know our history and share their stories in the streets.”

In March 2019, Alexandra opened Les 5 Saveurs à Monaco with her dog Bella at her side, selling scents of Provence, food and cosmetics. But things were a bit tight. “I ended up having to add some souvenirs to make ends meet. Tourists love anything that says Monaco,” she says.

The first year for any business is never easy, but then Covid hit. “It has been very difficult. I closed on March 14 but had the right to deliver food—tapenade, artichokes, olive oil, jams, herbs de Provence—which wasn’t a huge amount but it helped to pay the rent.”

Alexandra, who has lived most of her life between La Condamine and Fontvieille, reopened post-confinement on May 4. “I was so surprised to see clients from Monaco come that first week to support us. They didn’t spend large amounts but it helped. But by July and August, locals stayed away from le Rocher as tourists slowly came back. From August, it became mandatory to wear a mask in all les ruelles of Monaco Ville. “You didn’t have to wear masks in other parts of Monaco so locals stopped coming altogether.”

Once again, Alexandra reverted to small deliveries to loyal clients. Then the French confinement Version 2.0 began on October 30.

Fortunately, a month ago, she had started to develop her business by selling Italian sweaters and vests—for €29 to €35—from a supplier she has worked with for 15 years. “I tried to find something that you can’t find elsewhere in Monaco so to not be in competition with other businesses here and although it’s not same turnover, it helps. I am going to expand with clothes and handbags that will appeal to passers-by and people from cruise ships.” (In 2019, there were 182,436 cruise passengers in Monaco. Since March 11 and until 2021 cruise ships are banned from stopovers in the Principality).

“In 2021, I’ll stop selling food because I’ve lost so much sales due to the best before dates.”

Alexandra is forthcoming. She admits she doesn’t have the means to buy items in advance and can only sell clothing because it is on consignment.

“As commerce, we are stuck. We can’t buy stock in advance that we don’t know if we are going to sell. This is a huge problem for businesses in Monaco but especially in Monaco Ville with souvenir shops. We already know it will be tough until 2024.”

Alexandra has resorted to putting her boutique up for sale — “I am a relatively optimistic person in life but it has become a hard battle” — but is continuing with business as usual.

Her line of Panier des Sens—natural cosmetics and scents of Provence hand creams, soaps and fragrances all made in Marseilles — is her top seller, for both clients in Monaco and tourists. “The products I love sell well, even with the complications from Covid health measures to wear a mask and using a test stick to try creams.” The Colline de Provence products also sell well.

There is a scent for every budget here. And for Christmas, Alexandra will make up gift boxes from €10 to €150.

Open Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm or anytime by appointment on 06 40 61 80 28.

Les 5 Saveurs
6 bis rue Basse, Monaco Ville

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco

Art-Box.Store

“Monaco has an amazing arts scene, especially for such a small country,” says Kashka Kornelak. “There are so many galleries featuring all kind of artists, from contemporary and modern masters to emerging young talent. Plus, there are many art associations, the ballet, opera, theatre, philharmonic orchestra, the Grimaldi Forum with its concerts and grandiose exhibitions … honestly, wherever you in Monaco, there is art!”

For years, Kashka has run a company that manages UHNW families and real estate assets but her passion has always been for art.

“And so Art-Box.Store was born and is soon launching,” smiles cofounder and CEO Kashka. “This international platform will help artists gain visibility with a worldwide audience of art aficionados and buyers, giving them both a virtual and real presence where they can share and sell their art.”

No small mission, she aims to promote artists, assist with scholarships and grant applications, as well as facilitate participation in competitions and artistic events around the world. “We also want to work together to build a real artistic community.”

Part of Kashka’s vision is to provide artists with “concierge” attention, enabling them to enter a future virtual world of art, where access to multimedia exhibitions, shows, and materials related to art will be easier than before.

Before Valentine’s Day, she put on a 4-day show “All We Need Is Love” with Daniel Boeri and Gallery L’Entrepôt at 22 rue de Millo. “We had so many more visitors that we expected,” Kashka says. “The opening musical performance of artists from the Monaco International Performing Art Center, run by Claire Marsan-Amato, was beautiful. It made people nostalgic for the times we could simply enjoy the moments like this with a few friends.”

For Kashka, who has double Polish-French nationality, the show was a success with three sales, plus couple from their e-catalogue by people who visited the exhibition. “The challenge was with all sanitary measures in place and we still had difficulties to manage the crowd at the opening,” she admits.

Kashka Kornelak at ‘All We Need Is Love” exhibit.

For her third show, “My Art Goes Boom!” from March 6 to 11, Kashka is again partnering with Gallery L’Entrepôt. “Art is supposed to delight, surprise, sometimes shock but always awaken the senses,” enthuses Kashka. “And this show will be devoted to the explosion of creativity of our artists who express their emotions through their art making,”

Nîmes artist Joris Brantuas is at the origin of the project, promoting cultural inclusion and diversity in the world of art. Other exhibiting Monaco and French Riviera artists will include Jean Antoine Hierro, Manou Marzban, Nika Stanislavova, Anna Petrika, Golec&Golec, Edyta Sroczynska, Christine Franceschini, Sanna Bachmann, Bobsone and Dave Van Dorst.

“Each exhibit is accompanied by a multimedia catalogue presenting the exhibited works and artists. These catalogues are available to anyone interested in art and we send them to our individual clients and art lovers on a regular basis.”

Daniel Boeri, who owns L’Entrepôt and is a member of the National Counsel, shares the same vision of universal art without borders and creating an artists’ community of cultural exchange and mutual support. “His help is priceless,” says Kashka, who confesses she is a lover of the ballet.

In fact, when she’s not taking in the sea views from Starbucks by the Fairmont (and indulging in a piece of carrot cake), she can be found watching the Ballets de Monaco and her favourite Jean-Christophe Maillot creations like Abstract Life, Casse Noisette or Coppél-i.A.

Although Kashka moved to neighbouring France in 1983, she deeply admires Monaco for its ecological approach, security, international environment and many fascinating – “sometimes hidden” places. “I’m a BIG food lover so there are plenty of places that to go with friends, from top spots like Le Grill with its fantastic chicken and famous soufflé to my favourite place, Hirondelle in Thermes Marins because of their super healthy daily changing menus. I’ve been a member there for years.”

For Kashka Kornelak, “Covid has made time slow down for everybody and as we live outside of our comfort zones, we realise that nothing can be taken for granted. Personally, I had time to rest and rethink my life … and to start Art-Box.Store platform project.”

Stop by “My Art Goes Boom” at L’Entrepôt from March 6 to 11. Masks required.

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco

Green Coffee Monaco

Carina Luis Y Prado, Managing Director of Green Coffee Monaco.

Born in the largest coffee producing region in the world, it is no wonder Carina Luis Y Prado was attracted to work in the industry.

The Managing Director of Green Coffee Monaco was educated in the US and Europe and moved to Monaco in 2013. “I came to here to expose my children to this very International environment and also with the idea of exploring business opportunities. Obviously being of South American heritage, I have been exposed to coffee from an early age and have always had a passion for good coffee, as has my family,” says Carina Luis Y Prado.

The startup Green Coffee Monaco began with the idea of “an environmentally-friendly, high-quality coffee experience that was both organic and affordable.” To achieve this, the company focused on three main areas: first, they had to use organic coffee beans, mainly from South America, grown and collected using natural processes without any added chemicals. Second, the packaging materials and sealing processes, such as using biodegradable/compostable capsules, had to be environmentally friendly. And third, artificial flavour enhancers and preservatives had to be avoided in the production process.

“The quality of the beans is essential to obtain the best coffee result,” explains Carla. “This is why we only work with coffees classified as organic grands cru, fair-trade certified and harvested by hand for a selection of quality beans. Most of our products come from South America – Brazil, Guatemala and Colombia.”

The global coffee capsule market is competitive. According to a ResearchAndMarkets.com report, the market accounted for $8,327.19 million in 2019 and is expected to hit $14,062.20 million by 2027, with a compound annual growth rate of 7.0%.

The findings also showed that “the benefit of consuming coffee capsule is that the vacuum packing ensures hygiene and prevents external agents, such as oxygen, humidity, and heat, from entering inside.”

In 2018, according to British coffee capsule maker Halo, more than 400 Nespresso coffees were consumed every second but only 30% of their 12 billion capsules were recycled. (A 2020 Channel 4 documentary exposed the coffee giant to child labour at farms.)

Carina reveals, “There are 56 billion coffee capsules produced every year in the world and the material chosen is aluminium and plastic, materials which require 500 years to be absorbed. This represents a tremendous environmental impact on our planet with no sign of slowing any time soon.”

“On the other hand, the capsules from Green Coffee Monaco are 100% biodegradable and compostable, requiring only a few weeks to decompose naturally, with no additional process required, just throw them away and they decompose by themselves.”

Green Coffee Monaco uses a top-of-the-line organic grand cru selection of coffees and uses no added preservatives or flavour enhancers. And their coffee is cheaper than aluminium or plastic capsules – for a box of 10 capsules, Green Coffee Ristretto sells for €3.50 versus Nespresso Ristretto at €3.70.

“Conventional coffee is among the most heavily chemically treated foods in the world,” Carina states. “In the case of organic coffee, which accounts for 6.6% of the total world harvested coffee, there are no synthetic fertilizers or chemicals in growing or producing the coffee beans, which means cleaner beans, air, land and water. In other words, en fin, un café ecolo.”

In addition to 8 varieties of organic roasted coffee in biodegradable capsules, Green Coffee Monaco also sells 8 varieties of organic roasted coffee beans and ground coffee, which can be found in Monaco at Casino in the Port, La Vie Claire, Marché U, Spar Metropole, Carrefour City in Millefiori and, from April, Carrefour Monaco in Fontvieille, and at their “Capsule” boutique at CAP3000. You’ll also find their other products, such as organic green coffee beans for medicinal purposes and organic tea.

“We have also created a first of its kind product line of ‘fruit infusions with green coffee beans,’ a delicious hot drink preparation to replace tea,” announces Carina, adding, “Our immediate future plans target also the production of other beverages based on green coffee beans, such as our first ICE D-Tox beverage – a booster/detox beverage made with green coffee beans, lime, mint and other natural ingredients. We plan to produce several more flavours in the near future.”

Also available through their website are various GCM coffee machines for professional, office and home use.

“Of course, we have been impacted very much by Covid restrictions, like any other business, but especially our clients in the hotel and restaurant industry,” Carina shares.

“This is why we have invested in our website to reach our customers in this region directly but also anywhere in Europe. We strongly believe in our products and the contribution that we can make towards a cleaner environment while enjoying a high-quality coffee experience.”

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco

A Cantina

David and Jeanne Rossi of A Cantina. Photo: Nancy Heslin

From a young age, David Rossi has been passionate about cooking and so it was no surprise that he studied four years at the Lycée Technique et Hôtelier de Monaco (where you can lunch at the Cordon d’Or restaurant for €21) to focus on becoming a chef. “My interest in food is thanks to my Italian grandmother for whom I have nothing but culinary memories.”

The Monegasque opened A Cantina on October 26, 2020, having spent 12 years working in kitchens across the Principality, including the now-demolished Piedra Del Sol Mexican restaurant on rue du Portier and Pasta Palace in Galerie Park Palace, which became Valentin in 2013 and is now A Cantina.

“We seized an opportunity and after a long battle we were successful in opening A Cantina,” David explains, adding that they have a different clientele than Valentin, ranging from those working in the area to friends he grew up with to tourists passing by.

The 38-year-old had been trying to open his own restaurant for 13 years, a dream he has shared with his wife Jeanne, whom he met when they worked together way back at Pasta Palace.

“My first day of work at Pasta Palace in 2007 I saw David working in the kitchen and I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him,” reminisces Jeanne, who grew up in Vallée de la Roya. “Eight months later we were together and we have now been married nine years.”

Above and beyond offering great service and bringing together friends and family over a meal, Jeanne says they hope the passion David channels into his dishes will evoke a childhood memory for their customers, a link to a wonderful emotion or convivial moment of yesteryear.

A Cantina’s menu is seasonal so changes every three months. “Our menu is simple but all of our products are fresh and seasonal so you won’t find tomatoes in December,” David assures. In addition to the 8 or 9 rotating dishes for the weekly menu (they are closed weekends), there is a plat du jour for €16, including a non-alcoholic beverage and coffee, or €20 if you want dessert also.

They also prepare tasty Apèro boxes (€18) which include hot (say, barbajuans) and cold (charcuterie) dishes that you can order before 4 pm (+377 93 50 60 00) for pick-up before 6.

In normal times, A Cantina will be open Monday to Friday from 7 am to 5 pm, with tapas evenings and wine tastings on Thursday and Friday. Currently with Covid, they can only serve lunch only from 11 am to 3 pm but by the end of the month they will be offering takeaway and delivery.

As the restaurant industry has suffered immeasurably from Covid restrictions over the past year, David Rossi says “it was now or never” in taking the leap to open A Cantina. “Covid teaches us to question ourselves and to push ourselves beyond our limits. There are six of us working here – including Sophie and Claire who we worked together with when it was Pasta Palace – and we are a true family, same boat, same fight!”

A Cantina
27 ave de la Costa
Galerie Park Palace

Food images courtesy of A Cantina.

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco

APEM

Martine Ackermann, President of APEM, the Parent-Teacher Association of Monaco. Photo: Nancy Heslin

Founded in 1965, the Parent-Teacher Association of Monaco (Association des parents d’élèves de Monaco, APEM) represents the majority of 6,000 families who have children attending one of the country’s 10 French public schools and 2 private Catholic schools (see list below).

APEM is non-political association made up of volunteer parents of different nationalities and religions, residents and non-residents, acting as the link between parents and the schools with the Board of Education and government. Martine Ackermann has been president since 2018, voted in three consecutive years at the AGM held every October. 

While the association has its challenges every year – from increasing visibility so that parents understand that APEM is about more than book fairs and school snacks to finically helping families in difficulty for school trips – it goes without saying that the year 2020 presented a whole new ballgame.

“With the health pandemic last year, we have been approached massively by parents who have expressed their concerns,” explains Martine. “For example, we had to answer questions about wearing masks in class, online courses and the 2020 end of year Bac, which confinement completely derailed.” 

Martine reveals that concerns over the health protocol in place at schools has also been a big issue for parents. “We have discussed this with the Department of National Education as well as the government. And even though the situation is being handled very well, parents have legitimate fears. We are here to help them and make their voices heard.”

In a bid to drive membership and help local businesses during this difficult time, Martine has organised a project under the motto “APEM is committed to supporting local businesses.”

As she says, “The Covid crisis is a disaster for commerce, so APEM is partnering for free with local businesses and offering a 10% to 15% discount to our members when they present their valid membership card. This benefits both shops and our members, who very often are running a business themselves in Monaco.”

As president, Martine heads the Steering Committee, which includes two vice-presidents (Raffaella Olivieri and Penda Gebel), a treasurer, (Maria Contaldo), general secretary (Vanessa Erbaggio) and six additional members representing different schools for checks and balances. At the start of each school year, parents can volunteer as part of the General Committee.

“These branches of each school are key,” she states. “It’s the way they represent parents and manage activities in their schools that can give good visibility for the wider APEM.”

JOB ALERT
APEM is looking for a secretary who speaks French and some English
for a part-time CDI contract, Monday to Friday, from 9:30 am-1:30 pm. Flexible hours, minimum wage. Contact: martine007@libello.com

In a “normal” year, APEM attends various committees, like the National Education Committee and Scholarship Commission, where they participate in the allocation of grants for students. They also organise conferences, like the annual Language Travel Forum for parents looking to send their children on an internship at a school abroad (the forum has been postponed to February 2022.)

Up until Covid, one of the big issues APEM was quite involved with was the Catering Committee, discussing organic canteen options and less food waste (especially bread) with the National Education and caterers of the various menus offered to students.

They also work with a commission for children with learning difficulties, the DYS commission, the administrative commissions for the Pavillon Bosio Visual Arts School and the Rainier III Music Academy, the Energy Pact commission and others. 

“The commissions are used to transmit all the parents’ concerns and to offer solutions. We group together recurring questions and then work with the Department of National Education to get results – like reducing the weight of school bag and cutting down on homework during the holidays,” Martine asserts. “All information is confidential. We never give the names of parents who trust in us completely. We are here to defend the interests of students and parents, as well as represent them.”

Martine points out APEM measures progress by the number of new members from one year to the next. “The message to parents is that APEM is all of us – we are all one! Even if parents don’t have the time to get involved, they can join and we’ll represent them.”

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco

Before

Fred Bouazis of Before. Photos: Nancy Heslin

With ski lifts and restaurants on the slopes closed, Fred Bouazis has “brought the mountains to Monaco.”

The owner of Before in Port Hercules has teamed up with Le Coin Fromager to put on Raclette Wednesdays. “Raclette is an amicable meal you share with a group of friends and we have created a very cosy terrace with heaters and blankets to recreate that après-ski vibe,” says Fred.

The first two Raclette soirées have been completely booked – there’s a 70 person limit and it’s reservation only – and the New Year’s fête on Wednesday, December 30, only has a few tables left.

No surprise. Le Coin du Fromager at Marché de la Condamine needs no introduction and if Michel Poma’s extraordinary cheeses and charcuterie (he’s also providing all the material to Fred) don’t tempt you, the €35 price for all-you-can-eat, not including drinks, surely will.

A year ago, Fred Bouazis would never have imagined he’d be a restaurateur serving melted cheese dishes. Named one of “Les 100 qui font Monaco” in 2020 by l’Observateur de Monaco, the niçois has built his reputation in after-work bars. He opened Before in Nice and Isola (both are closed) before bringing the concept to Monaco in June 2010.

He’s been in the industry for 25 years – including as artistic director at Sea Lounge, Director at Blue Gin Bar at Monte Carlo Bay and a stint promoting events at Twiga. “I had the opportunity to bring the concept of a place to meet after work to Monaco. And a decade later, we have become part of daily life here,” says Fred.

Prior to Covid, Before functioned as a bar open from 6 pm to 2 am with live music, DJs, finger food and drinks – wine was the top seller, but lots of cocktails and champagne in winter– and had anywhere from 150 to 200 people a night.

While the bar in Nice was popular with 30 year olds, in Monaco the clientele is local and active, mostly in their 40s with disposable income. “It is very international, people working in yachting, property and banking. Year round we have a local base, residents and those working in Monaco, but in the summer we also have lots of tourists.”

Not last summer. With bars closed by decree, Fred decided to transform his after-work hotspot into a restaurant. “This year has been special. We were closed completely the first confinement like everyone else. It has been a physiologically difficult transition but you have to make an effort,” he explains.

“It was a huge adjustment for our chef and for our kitchen but our team has been terrific. We have had to invest in restaurant tables and chairs, among other things. The government played its role well, quickly offering financial aid for employees and assistance for a loan to refinance, and even rent relief. We have six employees now, we had to let a few go, but we are super satisfied and grateful with the government’s assistance.”

Before started by opening only at lunch – €15 plat du jour, a €19 daily suggestion with glass of wine and coffee – between noon and 3 pm. “Our loyal after-work regulars started coming for lunch and we have new clients. With each lunch we got better and better at serving Mediterranean dishes beyond finger food – daube with ravioli, curry, and even the new trend of kangaroo. For €25, you can eat very well.”

The restaurant added dinner service, averaging about 60 diners per service. For Fred, respecting the current Covid measures – hand sanitizing, wearing masks, mandatory distance between tables, among a list of other protocol – is taken very seriously as the eatery is subject to random inspections, like those over the past week that shut down Beef Bar, Planet Sushi in Port Hercules, Huit et demi and Brasserie de Monaco and Cantinetta Antinori.

“I don’t know if things will remain the same after Covid but there are certain work methods and opening hours that I will keep, like lunch service during the Yacht Show or Jumping.” One thing he does know is that restaurants in Monaco “are lucky” to be able to remain open during the epidemic while neighbours in France are closed. (In a bid to reduce the rising number of Covid cases in the Alpes-Maritimes, Nice mayor Christian Estrosi is trying to have the France-Monaco borders closed except to those French with work attestations.)

“The misfortune of Covid, which has confined us and deprived us of going to a bar to have a drink with friends, has made us question our lives and open new horizons that are good,” Fred reflects.

“We are running businesses with la bonne franquette and trying to make money by welcoming as many people as possible within the health protocol. And all I know is that, for now, I have a new profession.”

Open noon to 3 pm and 7 to 9:30 pm from Tuesday to Saturday and Sunday lunch.

Before
6 Route de la Piscine

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco

Sexy Tacos

Pepe Olivares and Paty Cortijo opened Sexy Tacos in 2016. Photo: Nancy Heslin. Food photos: Sexy Tacos.

Today Monaco celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the day that the Blessed Mother Mary (not Jesus) was conceived and preserved from original sin all of her life.

Another Mary celebration will take place later this week. December 12 has been the national holiday in Mexico of Our Lady of Guadalupe since 1859. The date marks the story of the Virgin Mary who appeared to an indigenous Mexican, a peasant named Juan Diego, and twice asked him to build her a house on a hill. When he reported the story to the disbelieving local bishop, he was asked for proof of these apparitions.

Early on the morning of December 12, 1531, the dark-skinned lady appeared once more to ask Juan Diego to gather flowers at the top of the hill. This time he did as asked and discovered Castilian roses, typically not in season. The lady helped him arrange the flowers in his cloak, which he then presented as evidence. When the bishop opened the cloak, the roses fell out leaving a life-size image of the Virgin Mary on the inside. This icon became known as Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico.

According to John Moran Gonzalez, director of the Center for Mexican American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin told NBC, Our Lady of Guadalupe has become less of a religious symbol and more of a general cultural symbol: “Our Lady is seen as the champion of the underdog, of the Indian, of all those who lack power in society.”

For chef Pepe Olivares, this makes December 12 fête doubly significant, as it is also the day he opened his Mexican restaurant in Monaco in 2016.

“It was a coincidence but I believe it was a sign,” says Pepe, who will celebrate four years since the opening of Sexy Tacos this Saturday.

At age 29, Pepe left Puebla, his hometown southeast of Mexico City and known for its culinary history, to follow his passion for French cooking and discover new horizons.

He first went to Toronto, Canada – “a beautiful country but it is too cold – but left to thaw out in the warmer climate of Cancun, Mexico, where he stayed for a year.

In 2010, his plans to “learn everything about French culture and cuisine” got back on track when he moved to Cannes to study the language for a year. He also spent the next six years working in various kitchens, starting with Michelin star chef Marc Meneau in Burgundy and finishing at Nobu at the Fairmont Monte Carlo with Nobuyuki Matsuhisa.

“I worked at the Fairmont for five years and Nobu was like nothing else in Monaco. Watching how the Japanese culture operates, with its innovation and intelligence … there is no waste in the kitchen, anything left over is used for another recipe.”

His years at the Fairmont helped him adapt his “savoir faire à ma façon” to appeal to Europeans. “I learned something from every place I have worked, even from my job at Starbucks, during my studies in Cannes. I was impressed by service and the way you had to treat customers. Howard Schultz personalised coffee for everyone, and I knew I wanted to personalise my own restaurant.”

Encouraged by his French wife, Paty Cortijo, Pepe opened Sexy Tacos at 2 boulevard du Tenaoon on December 12, 2016.

“Every time I travelled, I tried to find Mexican food because I really missed it. But all I found was chili con carne and fajitas, which are not Mexican. So this was an opportunity to share not just my food, real Mexican dishes but also cocktails and music to create a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. In our culture, when you have guests in your home, you do everything to make sure they are looked after and having a good time.”

Pepe has a different concept of what French people like. “In France, people are not used to eating with their fingers, and they use utensils even for pizza and hamburgers. In Mexico, we never use utensils for eating tacos and to be able to eat a taco well is sexy. There is a certain aesthetic, to eat without breaking the shell or have juice dripping down your chin. So we called the place Sexy Tacos.”

For six months, Pepe worked at Nobu and ran his restaurant for lunch service and also on his days off. “It was exhausting but it allowed me to see how the business would work. It is not the best location, but it let me know that people wanted this type of food.” The time came to focus solely on his restaurant.

Paty managed the restaurant (she still does the accounts) while Pepe cooked recipes passed down from his mother and grandmother, serving every dish à la minute. “Tacos are meant to be eaten straight away.” After three months, as word spread about the country’s only authentic Mexican food, they had to hire an extra person. Now he has three employees, having to let one person go due to Covid.

“Confinement was a disaster for us, as some of our products come from Mexico and it was complicated. We had to close for two and a half months and financially we were lost. Fortunately, the government offered some assistance but if we were in France, we would have had to close,” says Pepe who speaks Spanish, French and English (and is learning Italian).

He thought about shutting down and only offering delivery but as the pandemic continues, Pepe is concentrating on his restaurant and take away service. “We used to serve 40 people over two services and although now we have less, we have lots of people ordering takeaway. Everyone is happy.”

The menu features wheat tortillas and meat and vegetarian options, including veggie nachos hechos en casa (€15), chicken tostados (€17.50) and Taco de Cochinita Pibil – marinated pork, guacamole, corn tortilla, salad, habanero onion (€18.50). Or just go for it: Mole Poblano, a corn tortilla with chicken, lightly spiced chocolate sauce (€22).

Pepe admits he “really happy” to be in Monaco. “The French are not close to my culture, but I have been able to meet diverse people, which I like, so it feels like home.”

He also wanted to bring up his daughters in a safe and clean place. “It’s the same weather here as Mexico but we have the sea and mountains and … Europe! It’s hard to be away from my family and I miss them, especially as they couldn’t visit this summer to meet my new baby. But this is my place.”

À BOIRE? Sexy Tacos serves mostly Mexican wine (there are two French labels for sticklers) and, of course, tequila and mezcal. “Mexicans are drinking artisanal mezcal at the moment, served with grasshopper salt – that’s grilled grasshopper with salt, dried chile and lemon – and a slice of orange.” Whereas tequila can only be made with blue agave and produced in the Mexican state of Jalisco (and in some municipalities in Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas), the smoky mezcal is made from some 30 varieties of agave.

Open Tuesday to Saturday, 11:30 am to 2 pm &  6:30 pm to 9:30 pm. Delivery available through Mr Room Service.

Sexy Tacos
2 Boulevard du Tenao

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco

DouxVillage Monaco

Pierre Billon and Sébastien Lambla of DouxVillage Monaco. Photos: Nancy Heslin

To add a little Christmas cheer this holiday season, I have been trying to launch a Secret Santa Monaco initiative that would both encourage people to support local businesses and add some festive community spirit in the year of ho-ho-hovid.   

I was pointed in the direction of DouxVillage Monaco, a new Amazon-like online marketplace in Monaco offering same day delivery for only €5, cofounded by Monegasques Pierre Billon and Sébastien Lambla. The site is scheduled to go live December 8.

After high school, buddies Pierre and Sébastien went their separate professional ways for over 20 years. Sébastien is a senior software architect specialised in agile project management and software development, who lived in London for fifteen years working in Big Data (McKinsey, WhenFresh), banking (Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, JP Morgan) and delivery startups (Just-Eat).

Pierre, a corporate finance and business strategy expert, started his career at the dawn of 4G technologies with Clearwire/Sprint in Europe and was an independent consultant in Germany for some eight years, helping small and medium businesses adapt their corporate strategies to face new challenges. “From managing 8-figure budgets to meeting with customers, the open-mindedness I learned in business abroad is something I hope to bring back with me in Monaco.”

They two entrepreneurs, both impressively fluent in English and Anglophone culture, happened to move back to the Principality around the same time a few years ago. “It was during Covid lockdown in March when we realised that shops in Monaco needed our help,” relates Pierre, who was Customer Experience Director at Monaco Telecom until last year.

“In big European cites online shopping is available but here there is nothing, and local stores and companies need more than short-term relief through a boost in online sales during the Covid-19 crisis,” explains the 38-year-old .

Sébastien, 39, is ensuring that the IT and logistics behind DouxVillage Monaco create a homogenous vendor and customer experience. “We are creating an omnichannel to benefit smaller players who don’t have the tools, knowledge or time to get started online. For the end consumer, this is an online platform where they can order any products they want, from the participating Monaco stores, for quick and easy same-day delivery in or around Monaco or for in-store pickup.”

Pierre is quick to assure, “There is no monthly or entry fee for the shops, and customers get same day delivery in Monaco for €5, even if they buy from multiple shops on DouxVillage.”

When Pierre mentions the €5 delivery fee for Monaco, I fall silent. This is Monaco, no one offers this type of service for so little.

“DouxVillage Monaco is grounded on our years of professional experience and sound business models. However, this idea stems from our hearts and supporting the community where we born,” Pierre admits. “Monaco is unique and local businesses need help.”

Sébastien agrees. “Living in London is a life-changing experience for anyone, let alone when you have grown up on the Cote d’Azur. The mix of cultures, people and nationalities I encountered there have given me more sensitivity to what building an ethical business means – to be a good local player, to help the community and to be open-minded to others. The Brits are much more entrepreneurial, and creating a business is always seen positively, something that is not always the case down here.”

For the moment, DouxVillage Monaco has 15 commerce on board. “All except two came to us after our brief social media campaign,” says Sébastien. “As expected, our model of not charging anything for joining the platform is reassuring – they pay a small commission if they sell, nothing if not – and many of them also like that we focus on local delivery as they don’t want to compete in price with the French or international market.”

Pierre adds, “Interestingly, we have a split of about 50/50 in terms of shop profiles – half of them always wanted to go online but never did, so they like that we take care of everything, and the other half are experienced online sellers with an individual online store. For them, they like that through us they can add a new sales and communication channel and reach new customers.”

After its launch on December 8, an expansion of DouxVillage – the name reflects the movement of consumers wanting to get back to an idea of community – is planned for 2021 to other European markets. “Working abroad taught me that everything is possible if you’re ready to do the work, no matter how big or small,” Pierre says.

“People will still go to shops in person but this is a good initiative to offer an alternative to Amazon by putting local Monaco stores online,” he insists.

I’ll let you know whether Secret Santa Monaco takes off but regardless, Sébastien Lambla and Pierre Billon are delivering a real cadeau to both businesses and shoppers with DouxVillage Monaco. And you can win prizes if you shop before Christmas.

DouxVillage Monaco
DouxVillage.mc

Can Anyone Stop Amazon?
Amazon has announced that this year’s holiday shopping period has been the biggest in its history. Although the e-tail giant didn’t provide a hard figure, Adobe Analytics reported that on Black Friday online spending jumped 22% this year to a record $9 billion while, according to Sensormatic Solutions, the number of shoppers physically going to stores dropped 52% compared with last year. Truist Securities on Wall Street predicts 42 cents of every dollar spent in the US during this holiday season will end up in Amazon’s coffers (up from 36 cents last year).

During Covid and confinement, let’s make an effort to support local businesses and services. Do you have a business or service to recommend for I ❤︎  MONACO? Email: GoodNewsMonaco