Coffee with Californian chef Dawnie Perry

Each month, we meet a person we like, whose life or work revolves around food, to discuss their tips for a beautiful art of living.

Welcome to our Table Diary!

Today, we present Dawnie Perry, a Californian chef who is taking Paris by storm, creating menus for cafés, organizing pop ups and serving refreshing plates with the creative Studio Melka team.

A childhood inspired by cooking

Can you introduce yourself?

My name is Dawnie Perry. I'm 25 years old and was born in Vietnam. I was adopted as a baby and grew up in Southern California.

I grew up in a vegetarian household, but that never limited my curiosity about cooking! I always craved sauces and condiments: soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, sriracha, yellow mustard, pico de gallo and, like all American kids, ketchup. I was a big fan of dippers. My brother and I thought we were geniuses when we invented a sauce called "swirly whirly", made with ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise. At the age of 8, I became obsessed with the Food Network. I was so inspired that I started cooking for my friends and selling paper bag lunches to my classmates, until I was punished by the school administration.

Follow Dawnie's adventures

Tableware by Dawnie

How do you set your table?

I like my table to be rustic. I like textures (plants, textiles, candle wax), materials (glass, metal, ceramics), heights and even eras and cultures. There are no limits. When I was younger, I would have stuck to a theme, but today I'm more inclined to go with my gut feeling. Setting the table is like cooking. A dish has to have texture, acidity and brilliance, fat and heat, salty and sweet, just like a table setting. From matching chairs to cups and cutlery, I'm drawn to clutter, which is ironic coming from someone who is very tidy in her daily life... but I should point out that I'm not a minimalist.

What are the secret ingredients of a perfect dinner party?

The few secret ingredients of a dinner party are:

Plan ahead, but don't be rigid. Nothing ever goes exactly as planned;

Divide the work. Spread the work around. Be the boss, but don't carry the load. Lighting and background music are very important;

A slightly more "American" approach is the "doggy bag". Prepare a few more portions than necessary and ask guests to bring Tupperware. I love sending people home with their lunch for the next day.

At home, with a Table apron

What do you usually cook for yourself?

My partner and I eat a lot of rice dishes, stir-fried vegetables with mapo tofu and a bowl of small-grain rice. Pasta is a comfort food for me (as it is for many people, I imagine). Rigatoni with a homemade vegetable and soy meat ragout and lots of parmesan, angel hair spaghetti with pistachio, broccoli and arugula pesto or! udon with miso butter and garlic, garnished with shallots. Lately, I've been perfecting my own recipe for chocolate chip cookies. I freeze the cookie balls from my test batch, then bake them a la minute to get a freshly baked cookie for dessert.

What's your favorite Table piece?

I love the patchwork tablecloths that Table makes. There's something about the little details and mismatched colors that oddly seem to go so well together. I also love their tea towels and aprons. I find them very practical.

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