Q & A | Le Bon Magot

Le Bon Magot founder Naomi Mobed founded the small food business with inspiration from her colorful, cultural and international background, bringing handcrafted + creatively flavored chutneys to the table. Check out a bit more of her story below!

Have you always been into making chutneys? What sparked this passion?
Condiments, pickles and preserves of all types – achaar and murabba – are intrinsic to Indo-Pakistani and Middle Eastern kitchens. Searing hot climates and challenges with refrigeration made food preservation an important part of a kitchen’s role in the family household. Our family was no different. We have an extensive heritage of recipes using different preservation techniques – sun drying, salt curing, confit and brine immersion to name a few. Our goal was to share these and also demonstrate that, when updated, they have multiple applications: paired with cheeses and charcuterie, used as sauces or ingredients in a more complex preparation. Have we tweaked the recipes to appeal to a broader palate? Yes. But, in doing so, we have also endeavored to retain their authenticity of taste, texture and color.

Tell us a little about the inception of Le Bon Magot.
I had always thought about wanting to be in the food industry – different parts of my family have been immersed in it and these roots run deep. If I had not applied and been accepted into a PhD program at the London School of Economics & Political Science, I would have applied to the Cordon Bleu-London. So, in one sense, Le Bon Magot was an inevitability. However, I had always worked for large corporations (banks and financial technology companies) and was very much a corporate animal, highly institutionalized; so, it was a big leap going from this life to entrepreneurship. Moving from banking also meant a change in industry, and as if all these changes weren’t enough, I also moved locations, returning to the US after living abroad for ~25 years. It was daunting but then what new challenge isn’t. Le Bon Mago was conceived in February 2015 as a family business specializing in African, Middle Eastern and South Asian inspired condiments and culinary ingredients: caponata, chutney, conserve, marmalata, preserves, tapenade and dressing.

Describe a day in the life at Le Bon Magot! 
We are in the throes of building our business so no two days are like. These days, keeping up with orders! 

Why do you make these particular kinds of chutneys? What’s the story behind them?
Each one has its own stories but most come from an amalgam of family recipes – Great Grandmother, Grand Mother, Great Aunts, etc. – on both sides of the family.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
Stop talking about it and just do it (when I was to-ing and fro-ing about launching my own food business).

What’s your favorite way to use your products?
The products are limited only by the user’s imagination – they can be used as simply or in as complex a manner as required.

Who is your favorite kitchen hero and why?
Goodness! The list is endless for so many reasons. There are some amazing practitioners out there. The biggest influences, however, are our family traditions reinforced by the women in my family, especially my Mum and Grandmother. For the holy grail – technical prowess and precision, countless chefs provide inspiration – including but certainly not limited to Michel Roux Jr., Pierre Koffmann, Eric Frechon, Thomas Keller and Gordon Ramsey. Who do I keep returning to for tried and tested, absolutely no-fail, amazingly simple but great tasting recipes – Alice Waters!

What does Le Bon Magot mean?
“Magot” is one of those French words that has multiple meanings and no specific one in English, which is why I thought it was particularly appropriate for our fledgling business. Our favorite is the “hidden treasure”: not only do we want our customers to see our products as their pantry treasures, but we are a small brand seeking to emerge from anonymity. 

What is your fondest food memory? 
Leisurely family breakfasts at my great grand parents’ home in Pakistan with Grandmother cooking in the kitchen (as only she could), frying spicy Bombay Ducks (a fish indigenous to the Indo-Pacific Oceans), fresh chapattis being rolled and cooked on the tawa and steaming mugs of mint tea with lemon grass and raw milk brewing. Aunts and uncles strolling in and out, cousins coming by. No fancy crockery on the table or formal tablecloths just a lot of laughter.  This was a far departure from the daily rigors of family life in modern Tehran, Hong Kong or elsewhere we happened to move!