Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
Greetings to all our Mom’s Choice Awards readers who have joined us for another interview with one of our amazing honorees! We’re pleased to welcome French chef Claude-Alain Solliard, who has worked at a number of celebrated restaurants and is known for his passion for excellence. More than just a wizard with food, he’s turned his hand to writing, as well. A few years back, when he was training for the New York City Marathon, he was disturbed by the amount of trash littering his route. Soon after, he created Pick It Up, Please, a corporation whose mission is that, as citizens of the world, we must develop better habits when it comes to litter—and to educate younger generations. Out of that came his award-winning book, which points out ways children—and everyone—can help create a cleaner and happier world for themselves and for future generations.
MCA: Chef Solliard, a huge congratulations on your Mom’s Choice Award! To begin the interview, why don’t you tell us about yourself?
I grew up in Saviese, Valais, a French part of Switzerland, where I did my apprenticeship as a chef. I moved to the United States in my early 20s and worked in New York as cook/chef in some very well-known restaurants: Lespinasse, San Domenico, Le Cirque, and Raoul’s.
In my early 30s, I opened Seppi’s restaurant and Kino restaurant and also participated in two movies: Addicted to Love and A Perfect Murder. In my early 40s, I closed my business and went back to work as executive chef at Serra bistro, then Oregano. After that I opened Marston Station, which lasted three years as the partnership did not work. Then it was back to Brasserie de Paris in New Jersey as executive chef, then to Chez Josephine in New York. For the past four years, I have been general manager at Tío Pepe restaurant. I also opened the Pick It Up, Please corporation in 2020.
I also like to run. I have participated in and finished 26 marathons and about 12 half-marathons. I also enjoy music, movies, swimming, bicycling, skiing and reading.
MCA: What was your path to becoming a writer like?
I always liked writing, although I’ve always been a bad speller. Nevertheless, right before September 11 I almost made it—I wrote a book titled Cooking Through Love, Sex and Understanding. I had an agent but then it got cancelled, and I kind of lost the inspiration. Perhaps one day that project will reach the finish line.
MCA: And writing Marcelin & Marcy: Two Elephants for a Cleaner World—what was your inspiration for that?
During the pandemic we kept the restaurant open, but on my day off—running along the Hudson River near where I live in New York City—I noticed so much trash and litter. Then I said to myself, I have to do something about this—maybe an email or a post on Facebook, but something! So I ended up forming a company—www.pickitupplease.com—to try to promote awareness of the problems with the amount of trash in our city
I bought a small trash container that I tied to a city bicycle and went on my ride along the Hudson River to pick up trash. At first, I tried to gather up all the trash, but my trash bin was too small. Then I started focusing on just plastic and glass. After that, a friend of mine told me: “What you’re trying to do is good. But if you want to change, you have to teach children. Then in about 15 years we’ll see some resolution of the problem.”
I started thinking yes, I’ll do that. Then it hit me: I’d write a children’s book about two elephants that want to create a cleaner world. And that’s how Marcelin & Marcy: Two Elephants for a Cleaner World came to life.
MCA: We’re so glad you did! There’s always room for greater involvement in cleanup efforts—and getting kids involved from a young age is a brilliant strategy. So—how do these two friends accomplish their goal?
Marcelin and Marcy, two young elephants, start picking up trash in their community to make it a nicer place. When they realize it’s too large a task for just the two of them, they get their animal friends to help in the cleanup. Eventually, they realize that simply picking up trash isn’t sufficient to keep their neighborhoods tidy. So they’re faced with some tough questions: How does garbage end up where it shouldn’t? Who is responsible for that situation? I won’t ruin the ending, but Marcelin and Marcy have to decide what to do next, which proves to be an important lesson for the two of them.
One of the things people like about the book is how it encourages children and their parents to talk about respecting our environment and what that can mean over the course of a lifetime.
MCA: What are some of the key lessons found in the book?
To respect our environment.
To respect animals.
Don’t toss away as much.
When you do dispose of trash, do it properly.
Also, the book is in three languages, so kids can become familiar with reading in different languages and cultures.
MCA: I think that’s another delightful feature of your book—that it incorporates three different languages: English, Spanish and French. What kind of response have you received from readers?
People love it! I didn’t get any bad feedback, but because I am unknown the sales are there but not that great. A newspaper in Switzerland did a wonderful article.
MCA: Hopefully, your prospects will increase, what with the Swiss newspaper article and your interview with the Mom’s Choice Awards. If you could ensure that readers of your book walk away with one main lesson, what would it be?
Respect the environment, differences, and one another.
MCA: You share such an important message with children. At what age do children start to become receptive to this message?
I’m not entirely sure. Although it’s a children’s book, for ages 6 to 8, it really is more for parents and tutors. It’s a tool that lets parents read and connect with their kids.
MCA: Claude, thanks so much for conversing with us today! We definitely need more participation from people of all ages and all walks of life to help clean up our world, and Marcelin and Marcy are sure to help in that effort! Our very best wishes for all your endeavors—cooking, running, and writing!
You can learn more about Yvonne M Morgan and her award-winning book, Marcelin and Marcy: Two Elephants For A Cleaner World by visiting her MCA Shop pages.