Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"D" Girl Ellise Pierce - A Cowgirl In Paris

A month or so ago, I came across the blog of former North Texas native, Ellise Pierce, formerly of Dallas now living a life (I sometimes wish were mine) très extraordinaire. She's written stories for many renown publications (Texas Monthly, DMN, D Magazine, Dallas Observer, Newsweek, Saveur, Cowboys and Indians) and she was featured in the January/February edition of Food Arts Magazine. She traded in the Reunion Tower ball for the Eiffel Tower several years ago to develop a Texas-themed catering-and-cooking-class business in Paris. Yes, France.

Now admittedly I know very little about journalism, and this being my first interview, I've decided that it would be unwise for me to try to edit a truly professional writer. So here we go:

Your blog says you're from Dallas, did you grow up here? I actually grew up in Denton, and went to Denton High School (go Broncos!), and after getting my journalism degree at University of Missouri (oh so long ago!), worked in radio (KDNT in Denton, and later, KRLD in Dallas) from the time that I was 16 until my late 20s, and dabbled in television for a short bit, too.

Did you ever work in a restaurant when you were growing up? I once worked in a little sandwich shop as a waitress, but after spilling an entire pitcher of beer on a customer’s lap — I was, and still am, a terrible klutz — I felt that perhaps this wasn’t my calling.

My interest in food and all things culinary comes from my mom, who was – and is today – an amazing cook. Every night, she’d create amazing dinners for our family, and always pushed herself to try new things — we’d have spaghetti and meatballs one night, complete with red and white checked tablecloth, napkins, and candlelight to Beef Stroganoff the next. I learned to cook from my mom, and quickly graduated from Easy Bake oven cakes to real cakes and dinners for my family.

What were your favorite restaurants when you lived here? That said, my favorite restaurant growing up in Dallas was the Greek restaurant, Vincent’s, where they served dolmas and big bowls of garlicky cole slaw as starters, and some of the freshest, crispiest fried shrimp. My mom, dad, brother and I would often pile into the blue Buick station wagon and make the then half-hour drive to Dallas, just to go out to eat.

Favorite restaurants in Dallas: Angry Dog, for great, greasy burgers and fantastic Bloody Marys. Javier’s, for fancy Mexican. I especially love the salsa verde, the margaritas and the red snapper. Mia’s, for the beef brisket tacos and big-as-your-head chimichangas. The Lucychanga is my fave. La Calle Doce for the great patio, warm salsa, and fantastic, spicy shrimp cocktail. Scallini’s in Lakewood. I’ve eaten their pizza for years and it’s always amazing. Primo’s for the jalapeno poppers, guac, and super-strong margaritas. Breadwinner’s. Their cakes and cookies are sublime. Ziziki’s for the lamb salad. Love it.

If someone could send you one thing to eat from Texas, anything, what would it be? If someone could send me one thing from Texas...a 100-pound sack of fresh jalapenos. While I’ve learned to substitute with what I can find in Paris (Moroccan peppers, Thai chiles), the flavor and the heat isn’t the same. Jalapenos are simply the best.

What was the best thing that happened from your move to France? Starting Cowgirl Tacos (, my own cooking class/catering business, and developing my blog ( There’s nothing I love more than having a room full of people who are drinking margaritas and learning how to make enchiladas...within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower. It’s such fun!

Did you already speak French? Yes, I spoke some French before I arrived, but not much. It so was intimidating just to go into the boulangerie and ask for a baguette that I’d opt to go without most days. Now I love making sure that I get the right baguette — one that’s well cooked (bien cuit) -- and if it’s not, I hand it back and ask for another one, just like everyone else does (there is an art to buying bread here).

What would you recommend to others who are thinking about making a life-change like you did? I never could have imagined that I would be making Tex-Mex in Paris, and it’s been the best and most natural career shift for me. I think that the lesson is to follow your heart — which in my case, led me to Paris — even when you don’t know what the outcome is going to be. It’s the unknowing that makes the journey worthwhile.

What's next with your adventure? I’m in the process of writing a cookbook based on my blog, and am producing video shorts to go alongside recipes, which will be posted on my blog and website. I also have a monthly Cowgirl Chef column in Cowboys & Indians magazine, with videos soon to appear on the website, too.

Si ce n'est pas à ma vie, ce sera peut-être le choix de ma fille. Adios, Amiga

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