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An Irish Chef in France

 

Le Presbytère

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 answers the question most often asked by guests: how did a middle aged Irish couple come to be running a B&B in the Languedoc?

Usually when guests arrive at Le Presbytere we welcome them with a drink or a cuppa on the terrace. As we join them the first question, almost inevitably, is to enquire how a middle aged Irish couple came to be running a B&B in the Languedoc.

This is of course a loaded question. To answer it completely I would need to go back to my training as a chef, the various places I worked, the fact that we owned and ran a restaurant in Ireland for many years. Rather than bore my clients to death with my full life story I usually decide that they just need to know why we ended up in this particular neck of the woods.

The truth is that in 2004, having sold our restaurant in Waterford, my wife Sile and I decided to move to France without a definite plan as to which particular part of France we were going to settle. We have been lovers of all things French for many years so the decision to retire in that country was a definite and long dreamed of.

In the summer of that year we decide to use the long summer holidays (Sile was a primary school teacher) exploring the five areas which we had narrowed down as being the ones from which we should make our choice.

We had already ruled out the northern regions as being too similar in climate to Ireland, one of our certain aspirations was to follow the sun. Our search therefore was to look at Burgundy, The Loire, Provence, The Auvergne, and The Languedoc.

The Loire, which we visited first, was a long-time favourite of ours, we had worked there together in a Relais de Campagne shortly after we married and had gone back many times with our children on camping holidays. It is a stunning area, has beautiful rivers and magnificent castles which we both love. We found a quiet camp site (the luxury of being family free meant we were able to travel extremely light with just a two-man tent in the car) and set out to re explore the area. We found that it still cast a spell but unfortunately we both decided we had to turn it down on the quality of the weather we experienced during our stay. It was a little bit too like Ireland.

Our next exploration took us across France to the East, to Burgundy. Burgundy was an area which intrigued us, we had never stayed longer than overnight there on our way down south of our holidays but were very keen to see more of its towns and villages and even, maybe to sample some of the excellent wines. But Burgundy unfortunately was given a thumbs down for the same reason as The Loire. We decided we needed more sun and headed south to the Auvergne.

The Auvergne is a fascinating area. Certainly it is one of the most authentically French parts of France, La France Profonde. A lot of the land around is mountainous and not tremendously fertile. We had holidayed there with our children some years before and had loved the isolation of the area and the charming welcome of the people. Unfortunately it was to be that very isolation which decided us that it was not going to be our choice. The only direct flights at that time from Ireland were into one airport at Rodez and if we wished to operate a B&B we would be at the mercy of this one flight for our Irish clients and which had also to provide us trips back to Ireland to see the family.

Provence was discarded very quickly, just looking at the windows of the real estate offices made us realise that the price of properties in this region had risen so sharply in the last few years that it was now above our budget. It also quickly became obvious that there were less French people living here than were in the other regions we had visited and the mixture of languages we heard of the streets brought it home to us, particularly after the Frenchness of the Auvergne, that this would not be our choice.

The last week of our explorations was in the Languedoc, probably the place we had holidayed in more than any other. We soon realised that this was going to be our future home; the Languedoc ticked all of our boxes.

Here we had the Mediterranean climate which we loved, wonderful accessibility to Ireland from Carcassonne which at that time flew to three Irish airports, marvellous miles to beaches to attract our Irish customers and (most importantly), not having the kudos of Provence or the west coast of France, it was still within our price range.

We decided to come back the following year and search Languedoc for our future home. 

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Martin & Sile DwyerMartin 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
email: martin@lepresbytere.net

Twitter: www.twitter.com/DwyerThezan

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