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Life & Work with Manon Ducharm

Today we’d like to introduce you to Manon Ducharm.

Hi Manon, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I grew up in France, Bordeaux exactly so my love and passion for food was quite important, but I also have my grandmas and dad who I always looked up to learn how to cook. My dad’s side of the family is originally from Italy and my mom’s side is from Bask Country (a small region between France & Spain). I came to California, San Diego precisely, almost four years ago now. I came as a student to finish my MBA with a focus on Hospitality Management. When I moved here, I couldn’t find fresh products, almost unprocessed, the way we have it back in Europe so I decided to cook a lot more than I used to and start making every dish from scratch including pasta.

After graduating, I started my dream job in Los Angeles for a boutique hotel chain. I was doing business development and marketing, I was assigned two main regions: Western Europe and Quebec. I was about to get a sponsored visa through my work but a couple of weeks later, Covid-19 hit hospitality and every single employee got laid off on a 10 minutes phone call with over a 100 employees. This includes the COO. However, the owner hired his family at the exact same time- this was quite a lesson for all of us. I started cooking a lot more as I was unable to work back in hospitality for the following three months and then my visa expired which made it illegal for me to do any type of work. My husband bought me a small crank pasta machine a few months before covid and I would makes some twice a week. When I was unable to work, I taught myself how to make different shapes, add flavors or colors to my pasta. I was cooking for family and friends and after nine months, I finally obtained a work permit and I started the following week by selling my creations at one Farmers Market in Bixby Knolls (Long Beach). It was very exciting but terrifying at the same time- I have an accent when I talk and I always worry that people will say something about it or not understand me.

I have come a long way since then, growing this business and selling out a lot at three different Farmers Market locations now in Long Beach and Cerritos.

I always thought that I would go back to Hospitality doing Corporate work for a large company until I realized how happy it made me to see my clients and the community enjoy or even be very creative with something artisanal that I made.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
I don’t think people realize how competitive the Farmers Markets are… It took me three months to get my first market and then another eight months before getting a weekend market. Covid has increased the number of small businesses which is truly amazing however, the cities/non-profit were not able to grow their market to provide space for more vendors. The selection is quite hard. There is also very high cost working in California. My end goal is to open my own store importing fine products from Europe and continue making fresh pasta however it is impossible for me to afford this at the moment. Hopefully, in 2-3 years!

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I started making pasta with different flavors, colors or shapes so people can get creative with it. I offer easy recipes on my website but some of my clients tell me how they cooked the pasta, what sauce they made and they are really mind-blowing! I am very proud at how far I’ve come and it definitely motivates me to grow, I have amazing clients, great feedback and loyal customers since the first week I started.

I offer a different menu each week with items that you can always get too. They really like the mix of flavors in the raviolis or the specials I do for different occasions (Valentine’s, St Patricks Day…). The pasta are brought frozen and can be kept in the freezer for up to a month. They cook in 1-5 minutes from frozen too, it can’t be used for a fancy and quick meal. I also make sauce that I have lots of success and people even use it for homemade pizzas.

What do you like and dislike about the city?
I love the mix of cultures. I discovered so many foods through incredible people during my almost four yeara stay in the US! I am always eager to find more. I dislike how large it is and how much you need to rely on a car for anything and everything. I wish we could easy take the metro, bike or even walk to places. This is something I miss a lot from France and Europe, I try to do it more since I moved to Long Beach back in Summer 2020.

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