chef/owner le picnic ojai,ca
Inspired by her diverse heritage of French and African-American, Ariane knew that she loved to cook at a very young age. Growing up between Los Angeles and California’s Santa Ynez Valley, she would visit her grandmother at her farm on the island of Corsica. There, the authentically rustic food was true farm to table, with Ariane the eager participant.
Along the way, she became more inspired by worldwide travels, intoxicated by textures and flavors and, for example, street food in Vietnam, the spice markets of Istanbul, and the fruits and vegetables of southern France.
More than three years ago—after traveling the world cooking for private clients— Ariane moved back to Ojai, California, where she had lived in a tepee in an orange grove 20 years prior. This is her dream community, close to nature and to the city, vibrant, creative, and surrounded by farms growing incredible organic produce. She wants to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Ojai, since cooking is her mediation, an emotional exchange, the clearest way she can share her love. With food and cooking, and creating the ambience for savoring the total experience, Ariane looks forward to creating this space for the community. Using local produce from farmers, says Ariane, “it’s the greatest blessing to have access to such beautiful, fresh ingredients. It’s insane what’s growing here.” So she does her best cooking when she keeps preparation simple and lets the ingredients shine.
Influenced by films such as Vicky Christina Barcelona and The Dreamers, reading One Hundred Years of Solitude, listening to Erykah Badu, the Sade soundtrack of her youth, and daydreaming endlessly and wondrously . . . the words of Ariane’s father have stayed with her: “Only boring people get bored. Your imagination holds everything you need in life.”
Photos by Simone Noble