Mata­mata cafe in the heart of Paris

Leigh Sou­casse and her hus­band Gael are liv­ing the dream after open­ing a cof­fee shop in Paris. Leigh spoke with Teresa Hat­tan via email about the cou­ple’s new­est ca­reer path.

Matamata Chronicle - - News -

Leigh and Gael Sou­casse have al­ways dreamed of open­ing a cafe.

This dream be­came re­al­ity when the cou­ple opened Mata­mata Cof­fee Bar in Septem­ber. The catch is that this Mata­mata Cof­fee Bar is in Paris.

Leigh, daugh­ter of Gib­son and Val Bar­ron, grew up on a farm in Hin­uera, at­tend­ing Hin­uera Pri­mary, Mata­mata In­ter­me­di­ate and then Mata­mata Col­lege.

She said she took French with Mrs Parish up un­til year 13, but she never imag­ined she would end up ‘‘ac­tu­ally liv­ing in Paris’’.

After fin­ish­ing a bach­e­lor of ed­u­ca­tion and a bach­e­lor of arts at Otago Univer­sity Leigh taught at Tau­ranga In­ter­me­di­ate for sev­eral years be­fore set­ting off on her OE in 2002. ‘‘I headed to London and spent the next four and a half years teach­ing and us­ing my school hol­i­days to travel and ex­plore Europe.’’

Leigh found she needed a break from teach­ing after seven years in the class­room and it co­in­cided with an op­por­tu­nity in Paris for her to vol­un­teer with a new church plant and be part of the team to set it up.

‘‘I had al­ways wanted to spend some time in France dur­ing my hol­i­days but never re­ally imag­ined liv­ing there for an ex­tended pe­riod of time. I got a one-year visa and nan­ny­ing job and moved in Septem­ber 2006, ter­ri­bly frightened and with only three tele­phone num­bers in my phone – one of which was my new boss.

‘‘I re­mem­ber ar­riv­ing at Gare du Nord sta­tion with my 25kg back­pack – the same one I had left New Zealand with five years ear­lier – wait­ing for my new boss to pick me up, won­der­ing just what the heck I’d got my­self into!’’

Six months after ar­riv­ing in Paris Leigh met Gael and a year later, in Au­gust 2008, they came back to Mata­mata to get mar­ried.

Leigh said her hus­band had wanted a change in ca­reer. As a con­sul­tant, he wanted to use his business back­ground to be­come an en­tre­pre­neur. ‘‘ Com­bined with my love of cook­ing, a cafe was an ob­vi­ous choice for us. Our business part­ner, who is also a very good friend of ours, was al­ready work­ing as a barista in one of Paris’ rare good cof­fee cafes, com­pleted the skill set to make it all pos­si­ble,’’ Leigh said.

Mata­mata is a spe­cial place for the cou­ple – it’s where they got mar­ried. Their business part­ner, Ger­ald Arekona­mand, came to Mata­mata for the wed­ding to sur­prise Gael.

‘‘The sig­nif­i­cance of the word Mata­mata in Maori means ‘top’ or ‘sum­mit’. It trans­lates in French to ‘cap’ and there is a French phrase ‘ passer le cap’ which means to ‘pass a mile­stone’ and the change of ca­reer, a new project, a new business, a new part­ner­ship are all new mile­stones in our lives.

‘‘It’s also very nice to have a re­minder of home in my Parisien life. I still can’t get used to Gael say­ing he’s on his way home from Mata­mata (the cafe) in the evening – it’s funny to think that ‘Mata­mata’ is now just 20 min­utes away on the metro.’’

Leigh said the cafe has also ‘‘been a great con­nec­tor of peo­ple’’.

‘‘On the open­ing week, an old class­mate from Mata­mata Col­lege dropped by. He is now based in Eng­land and was in Paris on business that week. He walked in with his col­league just to check it out. I hadn’t seen him since we left col­lege.

‘‘We’ve also had other Mata­mata peo­ple stop by which has been lovely ... it’s still nice to have the New Zealand con­nec­tion.’’

Leigh said if any­one from Mata­mata just hap­pens to be in Paris, they can bring a business card from her par­ents’ of­fice, LJ Hooker in Arawa St, and their first cof­fee will be on the house.


COF­FEE SHOP: For­mer Mata­mata res­i­dent Leigh Sou­casse, far right, and her hus­band Gael, cen­tre, have opened a cof­fee shop in Paris called Mata­mata Cof­fee Bar. Also pic­tured is Ger­ald Arekona­mand, far left.

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