Cupcakes. Sweet morsels determined by a sponge-like base and coifs of cream or a spatular slathering of frosting. A hot topic in Montpellier, France at the moment.
Much like the vision of a glamorous femme fatale sporting 3-inch heels on a bicycle, cupcakes exude a hint of luxury, decadence, quality-time shared with close confidantes. Or a brief escape to another era, someone else’s, or your own moment of fantasy.
It was with great pleasure that I became acquainted with a Montpellier bright star recently. Unbeknownst at the time, but a cupcake shaped star would shine soon enough.
Surrounded by bright industry leaders at the DigiWorld IT Summit a few weeks ago, it was only when the lights went down that I found myself walking amongst the stars.
These stars weren’t out to promote a new App, Device, Internet of Everything network communications package. Looking directly they tended to move about, but were always obvious in the periphery.
For another time is the introduction of the other stars Musee Transversal, developed by Didier and Corinne, here and now, it’s all about the cupcakes: Mary Cherry.
After Summiting DigiWorld over the mountains and valleys of forums, networking opportunities and gala dinners, I had a growing interest in discovering the real Montpellier. Beyond the strong university presence, a growing population, strength in design and animation (film), I wondered what really made it tick. Luckily, Mary Cherry offered to introduce the local’s view of Montpellier. Thank goodness, a real chance to avoid the city ant-trail.
What do you normally see on a city tour? This monument, that historic marker, that guy died there, that lady was born there, that thing was painted 18 times in the 15th century.
Not that that’s not important but what mesmerised me on Cherry’s Tour de Ville was passion for life.
The tour took place during the period of “Design Tour Montpellier” another summit of sorts for designers across fashion and interiors. (Mary Cherry has a piece on it here). Design is a big influence for Mary Cherry.
Whilst we toured…we talked.
During the tour, Mary shared personal favourite destinations and I could not have been more pleased.
– What must be the perfect template of a cafe mixed with retail operation: L’heure Bleue
– Street art by “BMX”
– Truly chic interior design using *gasp* Ikea furniture: In the mood for Ikea
– Cool art and interior design pieces at: Metropolitan
– Coffee by Fairview Coffee
– And the piece de resistance, the parcours to Parcours (This place blew my doors off. Due to be demolished, it was once a squat-house, now urban artist’s house of design.)
– Okay, one more, PapaDoble, driving innovation in cocktails.
Making your Mark?
But the real stand out was the conversation. The general theme was how does one make their mark in the world? Especially if you don’t subscribe to the ‘normal’ channels or blueprints of what’s on offer. Along the way I also met Manu, a marine biologist who also happens to knit extremely well. She was passing on her expertise (in knitting) to Fredric, a total fashionista keen to extend his capabilities. Talk of living by the sea intervened regularly.
Mary Cherry is a bright star working to create her own path, one that will provide endless satisfaction to the appetites of people from all over. You may think, well cupcakes, it’s simple. It’s not that simple when you’re working at being the premiere cupcake business in Montpellier. France is a conservative place, a grand protector of tradition and artisan style. Cupcakes are not French, they are American (and we all know how popular Lance Armstrong is with the French).
In Your Face
It’s like cycling in the south of France, you’re not just working against gravity up mountains, you’ve also got a 100km/h wind in your face and it’s 5 degrees. You may not think that’s ideal and you’d ordinarily take one of the three variables, but when there’s blue sky and sun shining, why wouldn’t you? And so it is, Mary Cherry’s mountains and wind are the forces of culture and bureaucracy, but the sun of innovation and blue sky of possibilities drive her spirit.
Mary Cherry will find her mountain pass, because she has a spirit that says “I have a duty to my art”. Her art is not an office occupation, a travel agent, a scientist or a teacher, it’s in visual and culinary delights.
The mountain pass lay fraught with hiccups, risks, challenges and a wrestle with the climb, but at the precipice awaits unknown rewards and a fast ride down the other side to the finish.
One’s Own Path
By choosing to create one’s own path, the responsibility for each boundary, each decision, each probe into the unknown, rests with you. There is no deference. Mary Cherry knows this. Making the decision to go it alone and try a different path has not been without its pains, for there is no template, no career ladder, no performance appraisal or structured dossier. It’s whatever you want it to be. Paradox of choice? Perhaps.
Once that decision was made by Mary Cherry, those things didn’t matter anymore, because they weren’t relevant to her mission.
Tour of Tours
As we moved through the streets of Montpellier scanning the environment for influences and eye-catchers, the true beauty of the untrodden path began to emerge. I’d somehow managed to convince Mary Cherry and friends to take part of the tour by bicycle, just like Paris’s Velib, this was Montpellier’s Velomagg.
Her acceptance represented the attitude of stepping outside comfort zones and not just eliminating barriers, but ignoring them. Mary Cherry was sporting some serious heels and her friend’s niece was just a smidgen shy of fitting on a bike by herself. No matter, a way was invented to make it all work. All with a ‘can-do’, ‘pourquoi-pas’ flair.
From what I gleaned during that tour of tours, the core of the cupcake certainly represented that attitude. A melange of singular decisiveness to take an unknown path, the wherewithal to consciously push boundaries outward or ignore them altogether coupled with a knack for accepting and synthesising influences across diverse interests for better outcomes.
And I can report that the ‘Mont’ in Montpellier is with good reason, indeed the city is built on a hill. No matter for my ardent new pals in 3-inch heels and porting a pint-sized passenger, these ladies literally rode up that hill into a headwind with the poise of the Paris-end. In art as in life.
The rewards for a day in Montpellier? Many. Plus a cupcake treat (okay, two).
Enormous thanks to Mary Cherry, her man Alex, her BFF Marine (and Niece) for Le Tour of Tours. Merci Beaucoup.
If you find yourself in Montpellier, be sure to follow the stars.
*Thanks to JC for additional inspiration, yet another star not shy of a mountain.