With magical summer evenings upon us, we thought it would be the perfect time to introduce you to our next guest, Rebekah Peppler, a Paris-based writer and food stylist. As a James Beard Foundation nominee with clients such as The New York Times, Vanity Fair, The Los Angeles Times, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine (and so on!), she is as chic as she is knowledgeable, especially when it comes down to cooking and entertaining the French way.
In today’s interview, we get the chance to chat about her latest book, À Table, which provides guidelines for hosting casual, yet intimate French gatherings, starting with ambiance, cocktails, and her stylish recipes. We also dive into what kickstarted her career, favorite LA restaurants, canned fishes, coffee, and best of all; she shares a simple and delicious salad recipe for your next gathering!
Without further ado, pull up a seat, pour yourself an aperitif, and get on to reading our chat with the incredibly humble Rebekah Peppler!
First things first –– you just came out with your second book, À Table: Recipes for Cooking and Eating the French Way! Tell us all about it!
I did indeed! À Table is, at its core, a love note to cooking and eating the French way, through my eyes, voice — and extensive research — as an expat. From the start, I focused on creating a book that is fun, sexy, queer, and provides insight into the modern French table, as well as how to bring its recipes and ambiance into your own home, wherever your home may be. It was an incredible project to work on and I had an amazing, all-woman team supporting me to make it happen: the book’s photographer Joann Pai, editor Sarah Billingsley, designer Lizzie Vaughan, and publicist Blake MacKay.
When did your love of cooking and entertaining first begin?
I’ve been drawn to any book that includes a food element since I was little. At one point in elementary school, we made a group cookbook and I distinctly remember wanting to have control over all the parts, so the interest in creating something food-book-related came on early. As for my love of having people over, that began in earnest when I moved to New York from Wisconsin in 2008. I lived for the entirety of my time there in tiny apartments and entertained in the spaces I had — basically rooftops and living/bedroom room floors. I love the entire process of inviting people into your space, taking coats, lighting candles, making sure their drinks stay full, feeding them, fostering connections. I still do. It’s the way I show love.
You live in LA and France! What’s it like dividing your time between two countries?
Well, although many of my LA friends hate hearing this, technically I live full time in France. When I moved in 2015, I spent years dividing my time between the US and Paris which while it sounds like a fantasy and can be wonderful in some ways it’s hard in others. I felt a bit unmoored during that stretch, so this shift is a welcome one. France is home, but I am back and forth a bit. I keep just enough glassware and jumpsuits in LA to make it work.
What were some of the biggest roadblocks in starting your career?
It was a circuitous path to get to this point in my career where I’m writing full time, and I’m sure most writers will tell you that the struggle continues. I have always been interested in the intersection of food and writing. I studied Journalism and English in college then moved to New York in 2008 to get a degree in French Pastry Arts from the International Culinary Center (née: French Culinary Institute). The goal had always been to combine the two, writing and food, but for a while there I had pretty much set aside writing to work primarily as a Food Stylist. The move to Paris in 2015 was for a lot of reasons but the biggest was my clear intention to focus on writing. It was a big leap of faith, a lot of work, and I questioned it often but ultimately it led to Apéritif: Cocktail Hour the French Way, published in 2018, and now, À Table.
What have you been eating lately?
I just got back to Paris from LA so I’ve been eating a lot of what I missed while I was gone: really good butter, cheese, radishes, cornichons, and chocolate from À La Mère de Famille or anything Denise Acabo at l’Etoile d’Or recommends. Pretty much once a week I’ll make Le Grand Aïoli (p96 in À Table), a combination of seasonal vegetables, aïoli, and, in my take, a tin of sardines. It’s also the start of French strawberry season so I’ve been going a little wild on those lately, preferably with a bowl of crème crue (a naturally fermented, unpasteurized cream that is similar to crème fraîche) nearby.
Give us some pro-tips on setting the tone and table for your guests!
I wrote an essay for À Table called Dom In The Kitchen, Sub In The Dining Room: A Philosophy For Pleasure In Hosting (p26): it perfectly encapsulates the way I host. Before guests arrive, I set up the night—the food you’re eating, the space you’re in, the atmosphere you enter, the people you’ll interact with (if there’s anyone else at all)—all in order to open the door and please you. I think my best, broad strokes advice on throwing a dinner is don’t be afraid to take control (within reason)—aim to please.
One way to do this is to choose plates, serving ware, serving utensils, glassware, linens, etc. before anyone arrives. Because I thrive on organization, I usually tuck little notes on platters so I know where food will land and I don’t have to keep running around looking for “one last thing.” This little foresight helps me keep focus on my guests the moment they walk in the door and actually try to enjoy them and my night too
Favorite spots to dine in LA?!
I visit farmer’s markets or Cookbook and cook a lot but I’m also always craving a fish flauta at Ditroit and will often bring home a jar of their Salsa Macha or Guacachile. If it’s date night, dinner at Damian. Botanica has been one of my favorite places in the world since they first opened, same with Konbi — they just do so much right. I love a weekend drive up the coast to Ventura to eat the grilled oysters in habanero butter at Jolly Oyster and walk on the beach. We also regularly bring a big container of the fish ceviche from Mariscos Jalisco home and set it out with salsas, lime, avocado, fresh chile, mayonnaise, really good wine, or beer, and build our own Baja-style tostadas.
What keeps your hustle going every day? What motivates you?
One of the biggest, hardest gifts I was given this past year was being confronted with my mortality. I’ve been that person always working, often stressing, constantly looking ahead to the next thing. Getting sick with Long Covid forced me to rejigger my priorities and not take my health for granted. Now I keep my hustle and motivation by setting boundaries, resting, listening to my body, and a reminder that my work isn’t my worth. I am, however, still the person who can’t miss a deadline.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, either professionally or personally?
What are 5 things you can’t live without right now?
What’s next for Rebekah Peppler!?
I’m back in Paris and writing, stay tuned!
One of my favorite words you don’t learn in French class but you’ll pick up the moment you start eavesdropping anywhere in France is “bref.” Translated it means “briefly” or “in short,” and it is used when someone tries to cut through a long story and get straight to the most important point. Bref, this recipe takes the classic French combination of radishes and butter and roasts the veg. Adding arugula at the end—just long enough to wilt the leaves—takes it from petit snack to full-blown side. Or lunch or dinner for one.
2 large bunches radishes, trimmed
3 tablespoons salted or unsalted European butter, cut into small pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cups [80 g] arugula
Flakey Sea Salt
Preheat the oven to 400°F [200°C].
Halve any large radishes. Scatter on a baking sheet and dot with the butter pieces. Season with pepper and roast until the radishes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and add the arugula. Squeeze the lemon over the top, season with flaky salt and pepper, and toss just until the greens are wilted. Serve warm.