An Irish Chef in France
Euro-Toques chef Martin Dwyer, is much missed in Ireland since he and his wife Sile sold their eponymous restaurant in Waterford and moved to France. They now live in the Languedoc, where they take guests - and feed them very well.
This month Martin recalls a major career change over four decades ago - and the lady who unwittingly played a key role in events at the time
It is now forty two years ago, and about this time of year, when my career path changed for ever.
I had spent a year training to be a teacher, attending Sion Hill Froebel College where I was doing a graduate course for Primary School teaching. I had loathed every minute of the teaching but had reckoned that this was my human lot and that now was the time to knuckle down, join the human race and enjoy a life of “quiet desperation”.
Just before the results came out the Dominican nun who ran the college, a shrewd intelligent woman, summoned me to the college and informed me that I had failed my teaching practice, and further that her (kindly) advice to me was to attempt another career.
I was shattered, I had met my present wife (she was in my class at Sion Hill), I had organised a job in a school (men teachers were rare and popular) and suddenly the rug was pulled from under my feet.
But then the realisation struck me - I no longer had to teach - the world was my oyster - I could do whatever I liked - follow a career in cooking which I loved - and at that moment my heart lifted and to tell the truth it has remained lifted since that day.
The following week saw me, cap in hand, knocking at the door of Snaffles Restaurant in Dublin’s Leeson Street. The proprietor, Nick Tinne (see Emlaghmore Lodge), was delighted with me. Having a degree in English and History he saw as an excellent basis for cooking (he himself had been a Cambridge rowing Blue) and serendipitously he told me that “My girl Trudy is leaving at the end of the week- could you start on Monday?”.
I took to cooking with joy, loved every moment of it (still do) and often thought of the marvellous coincidence of Trudy just heading off at the exact right moment and quietly gave her thanks.
Some years after I heard that a Trudy had opened an eponymous restaurant in Dun Laoghaire and decided (on no evidence whatever) that it was one and the same lady.
Cut forward now through the years to last week on the terrace of Le Presbytère in Thezan les Beziers.
An old friend who was staying, asked if she could bring a couple to dinner one night. “They are Trudy and Tony,” she said. “She had a restaurant in Dun Laoghaire for some years”.
I confess I felt some trepidation - was this going to be the lady who had given me my very first chance behind the stove ?
She wasn’t in the door when I had to ask he if she ever worked in Snaffles - “ Indeed I did.” I had found my Trudy! - and incredibly she spends her life now between the West of Ireland and Faugères, down the road from us in Thezan.
I think she was a little bemused by my gratitude in her leaving her job so conveniently (for me) all those years ago, but all that was lost in terrific remembrances of the Tinnes, and the wonderful waiting staff of Snaffles in the early Seventies.
Martin Dwyer started cooking professionally over 40 years ago in the legendary “Snaffles Restaurant” in Dublin. After a time in a Relais Chateau in Anjou and in “The Wife of Bath” in Kent he opened his own much acclaimed restaurant, “Dwyers”, in Waterford in 1989. In 2004 he sold this and moved south to France where he and his wife Síle bought and restored an old presbytery in a village in the Languedoc. They now run Le Presbytère as a French style Chambre d’Hôte. Martin however is far too passionate about food to give up cooking so they now enjoy serving dinner to their customers on the terrace of Le Presbytère on warm summer evenings. Martin runs occasional cookery courses in Le Presbytère and Síle’s brother Colm does week long Nature Strolls discovering the Flora and Fauna of the Languedoc.
Le Presbytère can be seen at: www.lepresbytere.net;