An Irish Chef in France

 The Village Bakery: Our Irish Chef in France, Martin Dwyer, tells the story of their local bakery and its ups and downs. And there’s a lesson we could learn from in Ireland too - a favourable rates deal might encourage many a small business to bring the heart back to our rural towns and villages

*Martin and Síle Dwyer’s Chambre d’Hôte, Le Presbytère, is closed this season due to Covid-19, but they look forward to welcoming guests again in 2021.

In the seventies, shortly after we were first married, Sile and I went to work in France for the first time. We got a job in a little village in Anjou in a Chateau run by an elderly couple, the Comte and Comtesse de Bernard.

This was the first time we began to realise the importance of fresh bread to the French. The village bakery was about a kilometre away and Madame would pop down in her car to get fresh baguettes and croissants each morning - trying to time this as close as possible to the first guest’s arrival for breakfast. Should there be a break of longer than half an hour before the next guests came down Madame would again drive again to the village for fresh bread.

While we were raising our family and running our restaurant in Waterford we kept in touch with France and always had our summer holidays there.

Like the French we found that we always expected to have a handy source of fresh bread with our meals and, even in camp sites, if there wasn’t a bakery nearby there would always be a local “depot de pain” with fresh bread arriving each morning. It became a family tradition that our three daughters would head off to the nearest bread source each morning with their first useful French phrase- “Deux baguettes s’il vous plait “.

When we arrived in Thezan and set up our Chambre d’Hote there was a bakery in the village run by an elderly couple who retired shortly after our arrival, They were followed by various couples (it always follows the same pattern, he bakes and she sells) who were we think taking advantage of favourable rates offered by the Mairie to attract them in - the French have a very strong belief that a village without a bakery is a village without a heart.

I think it was about the fourth couple since our arrival who lasted the shortest time, after a few years they shut up for their summer holidays and never came back. It must be said that they were not greatly missed; I used to see a lot of people from our village buying bread in the bakery of a nearby village when I went there to get the breakfast bread for our guests.

At that stage I thought, sadly, that we had seen the last tenant of our boulangerie. I assumed that I was going to have to travel to the nearest village for our guests - but it turned out that all was not lost.

In the summer of 2019 we got a call from the Mairie wanting us to reserve a room for the night. It turned out that the Mayor had enticed a young couple, a baker and his wife, who were working in the family bakery in the Auvergne to come to look at the village with an eye to reopening the bakery.

The pair had met in Martinique (where she had been born) and were now looking for somewhere to start their own business. They were Pierre-Antoine (called Pierrot) and Anais and they had two young sons.

They arrived in Le Presbytère that evening and ate here with the mayoral council, and I must confess that we were at our most encouraging. The bakery had now been empty for a year and we realised that this pair could represent a very important moment in our village.

However very little encouragement was needed to be welcoming to this lovely young couple and dinner and breakfast passed very pleasantly.

And then nothing, we heard no further from either the mayor or the people of the village so we rather assumed that our nice young couple had been lost to another venture. Then at Christmas time this year work began again on the old bakery and the word got around that it was going to re-open in the summer - not just as a boulangerie, but also a patisserie and a Salon de Thé.

We still were unsure who the baker might be until we met Pierrot in the Post Office in July - yes indeed it was he and Anais who were taking over the bakery, and they and their two boys were already ensconced in the house at the back of the bakery.

On the night before they opened they had a little reception for the traders in the village and very charmingly thanked us in their opening speech for our welcome.

The following morning they opened their doors to a lovely light filled bakery with a wonderful display of bread and pastries.

We think they are here to stay.

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 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:;


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