Franco File Friday: Jessie of The Francofly

From the start, my approach to this series has been personal. My goal has been to introduce you to individuals whose work inspires me and whose connections to France are notable. There may be common elements to the Francophile narrative but each reflect a singular passion, be it for food, art, writing, designing or photography. The collection has grown tremendously since I began these features and as I encounter new expats and other longtime visitors to France, I'm astounded by the breadth of stories left to tell. 

After following her work for several months, I had the opportunity to meet food stylist and illustrator Jessie Kanelos Weiner just before the expat exodus for the holidays and learn more about her own journey. As she describes, it all began with an experience as an au pair - "a year of cutting chicken cordon bleu into bite-sized pieces and blow drying a petite Parisienne's hair every night" which turned into a tale of great love, both with country and countrymen (well, one in particular). After a requisite period of ocean-hopping, she settled back in Paris a year ago as a newlywed, determined to maintain the creative drive she felt in Chicago and New York. It wasn't long before the city - and more specifically, its food - took on the role as her muse. Her blog The Francofly captures these inspirations and helped jump-started her career. She even did the food styling for Le Camion Qui Fume's burger book that was released in 2012 (how fitting, then, that our first get-together was over burgers). 

Her story is unique and her work has the kind of spirit I was looking for to kick off another year of this series. Thanks, Jessie!

Describe what you love about France in three words
Love, joie de vivre and gourmandise

Biggest challenge working freelance in Paris?
Freelancing in France is not too different from elsewhere. It takes a tremendous amount of diligence, patience and self-motivation. Unlike typical French office jobs with 37 paid vacation days and Ticket Restaurants (meal vouchers), as a freelancer there are countless charges and everything comes out of pocket. And since there is never a go-to place to find reliable information in France, it is a constant bureaucratic wild goose chase. Luckily, I am married to a very savvy freelance photographer. He helps me cope with the paper trail. But at the end of the day, when I am being paid to draw tropical fruit all-day, I would not have it any other way! 

Go-to source of inspiration for your work? (in France or Paris specifically)
 Since I work at home, inspiration often comes from just clearing my head and getting out of the house.  I have developed my little local habitudes: a quick noisette at my local café, a peruse through my colorful local market in Vincennes or a bike ride through the nearby Bois de Vincennes, the forest just to the East of Paris. 

Something you've learned since living in France?
I am thankful I learned the métier of food styling in France. My background is in costume design for stage and film, but food styling has melded my experience in design and my lifelong passion for food. In a country so rich in culinary tradition, I am challenged to learn something new everyday. 

Most amusing or frustrating interaction with the French?
Every now and then, I still struggle with soirées in France. Unlike America where everybody says “I love you!” and inclusion is a virtue, it is possible to walk into an apero without anyone engaging all evening. I was at a party a few months back. Although I had a few fleeting conversations about New York and its amazing ‘energie’, I was stuck in that buffer zone of not clinging to the people I had already exhausted and targeting who my next victim would be.  So I did what any normal expat in search of inspiration would do.  I propped myself up next to the cheese platter.  Time went by.  Champagne came and went.  I was both invincible and completely invisible to the soiree. Victory was mine until the host of the soirée spotted me out. « You know, Jessie », he whispered discreetly in my ear. « If you want, I can happily introduce you to some people.  Although I often think otherwise, you cannot make friends with a cheese platter. »  Before I could translate “Try me, bro” into French, I knew I was thoroughly busted.  Although I was not made to mingle, I must be more proactive in social situations.  Or else it would be just me and the cheese.


You can follow Jessie's work and journey through France on her blog The Francofly, on Twitter and on Facebook. I can't wait to see what this year brings for her! 

 {All photos courtesy of Jessie Kanelos Weiner}

Lost In Cheeseland | Franco File Friday posts
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