Cover Story: Across The Pond
Talking to Marissa Hermer is like talking to a good friend. You instantly feel like your day is brightened when she chats with you, thanks to her genuine personality—personality that’s made her a fan favorite on the Bravo series Ladies of London. You can also ask her about her new cookbook, and then be honest and admit that it inspires you because you aren’t that skilled in the kitchen.
“To be honest, I was like you,” Hermer tells me. “I still think I am like you. I’m not a trained cook. I’m not a trained chef. I grew up in Southern California, but I didn’t really cook and I never really cooked for myself. And then when I lived in New York I never really cooked for myself there because...” Hermer stops and asks me if I’m in New York. I am. I get it when she says you don’t need to know how to cook in New York City.
“That being said, when I met and married Matt ... I don’t know if it’s that he’s British or if it’s the food he eats, but he likes home cooked meals,” Hermer says. “And I sort of realized I have to get with the program here really quickly. I wanted to play girlfriend, I wanted to play wife and I wanted to make my husband happy with food that he liked to cook.” This, Hermer elaborates, is how the idea for her cookbook, An American Girl in London, was born.
“I certainly didn’t grow up making Shepherd’s Pie or any of those traditional dishes,” she reveals. “I didn’t know how to cook these things he grew up eating. So the idea behind the book is I learned all this British food. And my meat and potatoes have made Matt very happy, but I missed the food that I’d grown up with, as well.”
That food, for a girl who grew up in Southern California, was a lot of “flavored, lighter fare,” such as avocados. “I started mixing some of that into the British comfort food cuisine that my husband liked ... I ended up cooking quite a lot,” she explains.
For Hermer, cooking has become something more than a pastime and a business venture. It’s become a passion, and something that, in a sense, has saved her.
“I had a difficult pregnancy with my last child and I was on bed rest/house arrest a lot,” she tells me. “And so we had a lot of dinners at home, and I felt like I needed to satisfy my maternal urges. I wanted to be a better mom to my boys. I wasn’t able to run around with them at the park, or take them to birthday parties, or drop them off at school, or any of that. Where I couldn’t razzle dazzle them on the playground, I could make them a really nice cozy meal.”
Is there anything she’s particularly proud of making that her children are willing to eat that they didn’t before? “A veggie curry,” she answers after much thought. “My kids are pretty good. They have a fairly advanced palate. That said, if they get pizza and there’s green on it, they freak out.”
The American-born entrepreneur, married to London restaurateur, Matt Hermer, is currently making her home in sunny California with her three children: Max, 5, Jake, 2, and Sadie, 8 months. Although Hermer considers her family “bicontinental,” she also considers them home in the simplest way. “Ultimately, home is wherever my family is. We moved to LA right after Christmas, then I went to New York for a few days for work without the kids and without Matt, and when I was getting on the plane from JFK to LAX, I had that feeling of going home. Although California in general doesn’t feel like home, wherever my husband is and where my kids are makes me feel very comfortable and confident.”
When Hermer isn’t whipping up the best meals in the kitchen or being a mother, she’s putting her life in the public eye as one of the six Ladies of London, a reality show that follows a group of women living in the UK as they balance business, family and their personal lives. “It’s crazy because I never thought I’d film a reality television show,” says Hermer, who attended Middlebury College in Vermont and got her start in public relations. “The fact that we’re even having this conversation now is crazy. But it’s fun.”
After moving to New York to work for fashion and luxury brands, Hermer reconnected with the man who would later become her husband. They married shortly after moving back to London in 2008.
“I used to be pretty anonymous at some level,” says Hermer of skyrocketing to fame with Ladies of London. “But it was more the clientele of our places that were famous. And since coming into this world, my skin has gotten a lot thicker. I still have the same friends, I still go to the same places; none of that has changed. But I was always a people pleaser, and I think that has changed. I think because suddenly the whole world had an opinion about what I was doing and who I was ... you can’t please everyone.”
Currently, Hermer is waiting to hear if the show will be returning for a fourth season. Regardless of whether it does or not, she considers her friendships with the other women in Ladies of London to be long-lasting. “I’m incredibly close with all the girls, even the ones who are no longer a part of the series,” she says. “I just spoke to Annabelle [Neilson] a couple of days ago. I was on the phone with Julie Montagu this morning already. I speak to Sophie [Stanbury] weekly.” To an extent, it’s this bond that’s a part of what makes it hard to adjust to living in another country.
“When we first moved here, I was like, get me back to London immediately!” Hermer laughs. “Which is crazy, because I grew up in Newport Beach. I’ve just been abroad for a very long time, so coming home I have experienced a bit of culture shock. Even though London does feel like home, I feel like I’m sort of living an adventure in California.”
“Living an adventure” is a good way to describe Hermer’s life, an up and down trajectory of luck, success, and some truly scary experiences that put her life in perspective. While pregnant with her daughter, Hermer developed placenta accreta, an anomaly where the placenta grows too closely to the uterine wall. The rare condition required her to deliver at only 34 weeks via Caesarian, as well as undergo a hysterectomy. Couple that stress with moving from London back to California, and it’s no wonder Hermer had a hard time adjusting, even to somewhere she was already familiar with.
“We sort of emmigrated around the world with three young children to a new house. The jetlag was hell on earth, and getting the children into school here, and getting them to restart their lives in a new place hasn’t been easy the last couple of months,” she says. “Matt was very much beside me during my pregnancy, and I don’t think we give our partners enough credit when we go through something. I can’t even begin to imagine being told several times that his wife wasn’t going to make it. Matt has been through the ringer.”
But as is a trademark of her personality, Hermer remains positive and optimistic. Her daughter is currently healthy and happy, her children are enjoying the sunshine, and Hermer is settling in California. She’s taking on new projects, entertaining friends—and yes, she’s obviously cooking.
“I’ve just generally been a positive person,” she explains. “That’s just how I was built.” Always, though? “A couple times in the last couple of months, I was like, ‘what are we doing, Matt? This is crazy!’ We left a great life, I’m working my butt off like a maniac with work, trying to get the kids acclimated, and I’ve definitely spent the last couple of months saying, ‘ugh this is so difficult,’” she admits.
“And then someone told me that there’s this thing called ‘The 30 Days Of Not Complaining,’” she explains. “It’s how you view things. It’s just taking a different view of it. So I can either look at my health and medical issues with Sadie as, ‘how the hell was I so unlucky to get this very, very rare pregnancy condition, and it’s awful that my family was put through this and it was very scary.’ Or we can look at it as, ‘oh my goodness, I learned so much about myself for being put through this and having gone through this experience.’ We are in LA, I am closer to my family, I am in the sunshine and the kids are really happy. All of these things have come about because of something difficult we went through. There is always a silver lining to every cloud. You don’t always see it at the time, but it is a good reminder.”
And now that things have settled down on the home front, the Ladies of London star can focus on some new ventures. To say she’s excited about them would be an understatement.
“Matt and I have three young children, which is our priority, and we spend a lot of time with them and that’s so important,” she tells me, adding that, in order for her to take on a new project, it has to be “totally organic.”
“They have to make sense to me,” she explains. “I’ve had a lot of people push me to get involved in different things that just don’t make sense, or aren’t in my wheelhouse. I have to be able to want to leave the kids. It has to be good enough for me to not be on the playground with my children. I’m working on a jewelry collection right now, and I’m not a jewelry designer. I don’t know anything about jewelry, and suddenly, I’m back in school again, and learning all of these things I didn’t know anything about.”
Hermer’s excitement for creativity and her optimistic outlook intrigues me, so I decide to ask her some lighter questions. Guilty pleasure? “I feel like everything I do is guilty,” Hermer laughs, before telling me, “I love sitting on the couch with ice cream. I discovered California Sweet Road ice cream, and we go through a lot of those.” The perfect meal that makes her feel like she’s home, no matter where she’s living? “Lasagna,” she says without hesitation. Three people she’d drop everything to meet, if given the chance? “I love the writer Elizabeth Gilbert, and I love her books on relationships,” Hermer says. “I was reading Eat Pray Love, actually, when I met my husband. I think probably Bill Clinton—I mean, I have met him a couple of times. And Barack Obama.”
And what would she tell herself ten years ago, if she could look ahead to the future and see where she is now? For this question, Hermer is (unsurprisingly) thoughtful, honest, and reflective.
“I didn’t really imagine anything,” she admits. “I’m not really a forward thinker. I think life happens in different ways, and you never know which way it’s going to go. So you hang on for the ride, because that’s what happened. And you take opportunities even if it seems crazy, because so many wonderful things come out of it. And I’ll tell myself that for my next ten years, too.”
Features Editor Andrea Towers
Photographer Jim Jordan Location Pacific Palisades, California Stylist Adeana Rohatiner Stylist Assistant Julie Fessel Hair Aaron Light Makeup Aliana Moss using Laura Mercier cosmetics Manicurist Morgan McGuire Produced in conjunction with White Cross Productions and White Cross Studios.