The Interrogator with Elisa Marshall and Ben Sormonte

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Elisa Marshall and Ben Sormonte are a team in practically every sense of the word. Partners in love and business, the charming couple are the pair behind SoHo’s chicest new bakery, Maman. A light and airy space where the brioche and chouquettes runneth over, the cafe and bakery offers a beloved slice of the French countryside on Centre Street, a stretch where the best sustenance you could have previously hoped for amounted to a deli bagel and bitter coffee at best. Maman, needless to say, is an improvement.

Like many success stories, Maman benefits from what one might call a perfect storm of talent. Both Marshall and Sormonte have roots in the events and hospitality space, as well as a shared lifelong love of all things breaded and baked, sweet and savory. Maman blends the two’s passion and previous experience into something utterly delicious–bolstered, in no small part, by the addition of Michelin-starred chef Armand Arnal, whose experience behind the burners of France’s La Chassagnette adds a bit of bonafide culinary backbone to the team. Love, passion, palate, expertise: this place has it all.

Below, we put these two to The Interrogator task, talking Spice Girls, red wine, and dreams of zipping through the French Alps in a vintage car.

Place of residence:

Elisa: New York City & Toronto

Ben: New York

Current occupation:

Elisa: Entrepreneur, manager, baker, cook, barista, dishwasher, delivery girl, social media manager, marketing coordinator, PR representative, accountant, and girlfriend.

Ben: None–just having fun.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Elisa: A “Maman.”

Ben: Everything that I am not right now.

Quote to live by:

Elisa: “I’m going to make everything around me beautiful–that will be my life.” – Elsie de Wolfe

Ben: “When there is a will, there is a way.”

First job you ever had:

Elisa: An eBay business buying and selling Spice Girl paraphernalia. I was 12 and making a killing!

Ben: Beach man.

Least favorite part of your day:

Elisa: Having to get dressed in the morning… I never have anything to wear.

Ben: When I have to leave Elisa.

Windows down, the song you’re playing is:

Elisa: Anything Michael Bublé  and singing really loud.

Ben: “Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed

Three guilty pleasures:

Elisa: Pinterest, red wine, and sleeping.

Ben: Family, working, and watching basketball.

If you had to watch one movie on repeat for eternity, what would it be?

Elisa: Any cheesy Nicholas Sparks film.

Ben: Love Actually

You have a million dollars to spend on art, you buy…

Elisa: Does music count as Art? I would say so…. I would have daily artists doing live acoustic sets at Maman. Ray LaMontagne, James Morrison, Gavin DeGraw, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, etc.

Ben: A super cool tree house.

Plane, train or automobile for a road trip?

Elisa: Automobile

Ben: Automobile (vintage)

What IS your favorite road trip?

Elisa: Tornoto to Montreal–a boring, straight-six hours but always with good company and many amazing memories.

Ben: Driving the Alps in France.

Personal travel ethos:

Elisa: You can never bring enough stuff.

Ben: Let’s make every day count.

Drink of choice:

Elisa: Red wine (p.m.) or coffee (a.m.)

Ben: Tom Collins

Beach house or tree house:

Elisa: Tree house

Ben: Tree house

Where was the best meal you ever had and what was it?

Elisa: Cheese fondue in Megève (French Alps).

Ben: L’Ami Jean in Paris a couple years back.

What is the best news you ever received?

Elisa: The day that Maman was finalized and it was all really happing! I was opening my dream cafe in New York City!

Ben: Same as Elisa–the day we found out we were going to open Maman.

Who or what is largely overrated? Explain.

Elisa: Popcorn Chicken–it’s not popcorn or chicken.

Ben: Weddings and sleeping.

Briefly describe the best concert you have ever gone to.

Elisa: Michael Bublé with my best friend Nicole back in good old 2007. He is my fav and we got to meet him after waiting hours in the cold, then had a coincidental highway run-in with the tour bus later that evening and got accused of stalking him… HA.

Ben: Rolling Stones–my first one.

Where do you go for inspiration, peace of mind?

Elisa: My dreams and my bed (and Pinterest, too!).

Ben:​ At night in my bed​.

Photo by Atisha Paulson

Jenny Bahn

Jenny Bahn

Jenny Bahn is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, specializing in music, fashion, the arts, and culture, both high and low. Her work has been featured in Cereal, Lenny Letter, and more.