Blogger Mimi Thorisson has transformed the beautiful villa where she lives with her family into an intimate cooking school and pop-up restaurant. Here, her story and seven recipes from her kitchen.

By Gisela Williams
Updated May 23, 2017

In a quiet village surrounded by legendary vineyards, blogger Mimi Thorisson has transformed the beautiful villa where she lives with her family into an intimate cooking school and pop-up restaurant. Here, her story and seven recipes from her kitchen.

When Mimi Thorisson and her photographer husband, Oddur, decided to take a leap of faith four years ago and move from Paris to the Médoc, a remote wine region in Bordeaux, they had no idea what to expect other than access to some very good vineyards. Inspired by the Médoc’s abundance of ingredients and rustic recipes, Mimi started a blog called Manger. Almost from the beginning it attracted a huge following, thanks in no small part to her great sense of style (imagine The Pioneer Woman in France wearing Balenciaga dresses and Hunter boots). Only a few months after her first post she was offered a cookbook deal and a TV series.

Mimi was raised in Hong Kong by a Chinese father and a French mother: “I grew up an only child, obsessively searching out the best squid skewers with my father. And in the summers, we’d go to France and I’d spend the whole time in the kitchen cooking with my aunt and grandmother.”

For the first few years in the Médoc, the growing Thorisson family (Mimi and Oddur have seven children and more than a dozen terriers) rented a stone farmhouse in the middle of a forest. Then, about a year ago, a friend of a friend showed them a faded but grand L-shaped stone villa built in the 1870s that was once part of a larger château in the quiet village of Saint-Yzans-de-Médoc. Outside was a cobblestone courtyard with a wrought-iron gate; inside, a sweeping staircase, two kitchens and a dozen bedrooms. The owner had left the interiors fairly intact: elaborately patterned wallpaper, patinated red-and-white-tiled floors, carved wooden antique furniture. “I knew it was our fate,” Mimi says.

And that was before she learned that the villa had once been owned by a charming woman named Plantia, who in the 1950s ran a small restaurant out of the house, a favorite of the local wine merchants. As Mimi and Oddur renovated the rooms, Mimi came across Plantia’s old recipes and photographs. “I’m collecting everything in a box,” she says. “I will use it for my second cookbook.”

Also fodder for her next book is the experience of opening a small pop-up restaurant on the villa’s ground floor. “I will cook the kind of food I love: classic and rustic and seasonal and family-style,” Mimi says. That might mean a hunter’s stew with chicken and local mushrooms, or a bistro-style dish like pan-seared flank steak with buttery shallot–red wine sauce. She and Oddur have already started compiling the wine list, which will be small and personal and include many of the winemakers they have befriended, like Jean-Michel Cazes of Château Lynch-Bages. “It won’t be purely local wines, though,” Mimi says. “There are too many good ones in other parts of France.”

Mimi and Oddur are also planning to begin two- to four-day culinary programs in their new villa. “It will all be very organic,” she says. “We’ll cook and visit châteaus and markets and do wine pairings. Maybe Oddur will teach people a little bit about taking pictures.” Starting later this year, some students can stay at the villa in one of the guest bedrooms. The idea of inviting readers into her home was an obvious one for Mimi: “I feel like I know every single one of them. I correspond with a lot of them.”

The Thorissons are also making their own wine with the help of Viniv, a custom winemaking operation co-owned by the Cazes family and a French-American named Stephen Bolger. They have already harvested a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and will soon be consulting with enologist Eric Boissenot. “We already know what will be on the label: an illustration of a smooth fox terrier,” Mimi says. “And we’ll name it after our favorite dog, Humfri. We’ll start by producing about 300 bottles. That’s just the right amount—one for almost every night of the year.”