An Irish Chef in France

Euro-Toques chef Martin Dwyer and his wife Sile, formerly of the much-loved Dwyers restaurant in Waterford, now live in the Languedoc, where they normally take guests and feed them very well - although, this year, they have decided that the Covid-19 protocols are too restrictive and they will wait to re-open in 2021.

Martin recalls the influence that Elizabeth David had on his life (something so many food lovers have shared), and a lingering regret…

Before I ever thought that I would end up being a chef I became interested in reading about food, there was really one major reason why this happened: it can be put down to being greedy. Having left home to go to university I soon began to realise that if I wanted to continue to enjoy food without someone to cook it for me I was going to have to learn to cook and so I began to search for suitable cook books to guide me.

As a Corkman abroad in Dublin in the sixties I was lucky that I had a sister already living in Rathfarnham who would every so often take pity on my plight and invite me over for a decent meal. The same sister had had to teach herself to cook and fortunately for me she decided to do this from the pages of Elizabeth David. I decided to follow her lead and so the various works of Mrs David became my cooking bibles.

This didn’t turn out to be as useless an exercise as it sounds because after I left university with a B.A. in English and History (and a firm commitment not to become a teacher) my first job was in a kitchen (in Snaffles Restaurant) where my perusal of recipes turned out to be far more practically useful than my time studying The Hundred Years War or the pastoral poetry of Wordsworth.

My first Elizabeth David cookbook was Italian Food, not the first one she had written but an excellent choice for someone with limited financial resources.

The first of her dishes which I remember mastering was Lasagne al Forno which was (and still is) a great dish for parties and one where a little money went a very long way, and it is also worth remembering that if properly cooked it can be quite a noble repast.

The book of Mrs. David’s which influenced me most however was French Provincial Cooking. Soon enough I began to toss out some of the wonderful dishes of provincial France. I became a dab hand at Boeuf Bourguignon, mastered a good Coq au Vin, spent many attempts getting her Terrine de Campagne right and in fact discovered that her Chicken Liver Paté was so delicious that I could subsidise my meagre income at any time by making some for the local delicatessen.

By the time of having done several years in Snaffles I decided that I should move on. Of course, (as anyone would) I decided to consult the oracle to know where to go next. I had the temerity to write and ask Mrs David what she thought.

I am still surprised that she immediately replied and, even though kindness itself, she explained that she was now out of touch with the restaurant scene in France (I have of course kept the letter). In fact it was our own Theodora FitzGibbon – at that time cookery writer for the Irish Times - who guided me towards a country Relais in Anjou which was my first employment in France.

Many years after this I was working in a little village in Kent which was midway between London and the cross channel ferries .

In the middle of lunch service the waiter announced to us that the two on table 6 were none other than Elizabeth David and a friend en route to France.

I remember that she ate the Lamb, and told us that she enjoyed it but I lacked the courage to actually go and talk to her, a thing I still regret today.

Martin 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 up 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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