The Grand Départ may be over but there is one Frenchman doing his best to get us all to eat like our cousins across the Channel. Catherine Scott meet Yves Quemerais, the French Chef at Home.
When Anne Quemerais visited Harrogate at the age of 12 she fell in love with Yorkshire and vowed one day to make it her home.
Now aged 44 she has moved her entire family, including her husband Yves and teenage children Thomas and Marie, to Knaresborough, North Yorkshire.
And Yves is now doing his best to introduce Yorkshire palates to the finest French cuisine.
He has set up French Chef at Home, a catering business which offers authentic French food cooked at people’s homes using local Yorkshire produce.
The Quemerais are also in the process of opening up their own dining room for people who would prefer to “eat out” rather than have Yves come to their house.
Yves – who trained under acclaimed chef Alain Ducasse – does everything from smoking his own fish to baking his own breads and can cater for groups of up to 50 people. He uses organic produce where he can.
For his wife Anne it is a dream come true.
“I first visited Harrogate on a language exchange trip when I was 12 and I stayed with a family there and I just loved everything about it,” she explains. “I met my friend Suzanne and we became pen pals after I returned to France and we have kept in touch for more than 30 years.”
Anne returned to visit her Yorkshire friend, and Suzanne visited Anne’s family on the outskirts of Paris.
“From the very first time I visited I knew one day I would return to live.”
And two years ago, 30 years after she first visited the county her dream became a reality.
“It did take some time for us to get brave enough to make the move. I now think we could probably have done it a bit earlier. But we had to be sure the time was right.”
Yves was working in Paris as a private chef for governors, politicians and chief executives of large corporations – his most famous customer to date being Sir Richard Branson.
But he was spending three hours a day just battling the Paris traffic to get to work. Anne wanted a better quality of life for her husband and her family. “After working as a chef du cuisine for 25 years I felt it was time to set up on my own,” says Yves, 45. Moving to another country was the perfect opportunity he needed to launch his own business.
At the time Marie was 11 and Thomas 16. “Thomas was fine about the move, but Marie didn’t want to leave her friends. she had just started a new school and was very happy. But within a few days of being over here she was fine.”
The harder part has been getting the message out their about French Chef at Home and getting people to try a new cuisine. “A lot of people in the Harrogate are Francophiles and they have been keen to try, but it has been a bit harder convincing other people,” he says. “When people try it they like it, but it is getting them to try it.”
Yves’ love of cooking stems from his mother and grandmother.
“My mother was a very good cook,” he says. “My grandmother had a restaurant close to Paris and so it was natural for me to be involved. I would cook with my mother and grandmother after school and then I went to college.”
As well as learning how to cook the French classics, Yves attended a second college to learn charcuterie which is his speciality.
He learnt how to cure and smoke his own meat, make his own sausage and pates.
He is also passionate about local, seasonal produce buying as many as his ingredients as close to his home as possible. From local butchers and farmers’ markets. Seafood and game are something he also enjoys.
The family hope to have their allotment one day where they can grow their own produce.
Food is a big part of family life for the Quemerais.
“We eat together every night at 8pm unless Yves is working” says Anne who gave up her job as a music sheet buyer when she had children.
“We sit round the dinner table for at least 35 minutes with no television and chat. It is a very important part of our family life and something I think a lot of people have lost. Just being together for 30 minutes every day is so important.”
When I meet them at their rented home in Knaresborough, Anne does most of the talking, often translating for her husband who is less confident with his English.
However once you get him talking food, local produce and his cooking his passion takes over and the English flows.
He is, however, studying at college to improve his English, but on the whole he lets his food do the talking.
And if the samples he shared with us are anything to go by people are for a treat, especially his pastry work which he learnt from Alan Ducasse.
All food for French Chef at Home is made from scratch and either cooked on the premises or simply prepared, and delivered chilled to the person’s home to be reheated.
Menus are bespoke and can be designed around a customer’s taste and ingredient preferences.
From September Yves plans to open his own dining room for dinner parties.
“It had always been a dream of ours to one day move to Yorkshire as we love the countryside, the people and of course the quality produce found here.
“Now I hope to share my passion for French cuisine and use the freshest produce to prepare exceptional dishes such as boeuf bourguignon, cassoulet and bouillabaisse.”
For further details visit www.frenchchefathome.com, or call Yves on 07423 746 080.