TRAVEL: Close encounters of the gastro and golf kind in Northern France
By OaksScoop | Thursday, January 03, 2013, 21:04
A chance encounter with a top chef during a recent trip to France by travel publisher Frank Baldwin revealed a Sevenoaks and Westerham connection stretching back more than 30 years.
Sevenoaks publisher Frank Baldwin with chef Christian Germain who was chef at the Marquis de Montcalm in Westerham 30 years ago. Christian now owns and runs the Chateau de Montreuil.
Frank, whose business is based in Sevenoaks, had been invited to represent Great Britain and Ireland in a golf match against a Continental Europe team in an event organised by the Nord Pas de Calais tourist board on the Cote d'Opale to promote the quality of the golf and gastronomy in the area and how accessible it is from Kent.
After the match at Hardelot Golf Club, which was won by the hosts, The Britain and Ireland team members were split between several different hotels where they enjoyed dinners prepared by a variety of chefs from the culinary association, Côte d'Opale Gourmande.
Frank found himself staying and dining at the beautiful Chateau de Montreuil. While having an after dinner drink with the owner and chef, Christian Germain, Frank mentioned where he was from. Christian said he knew the area well as during the 70s and 80s he was the chef at the Marquis de Montcalm in Westerham (now the Westerham Place residential care home).
Frank said: "It was an incredible coincidence as during those days I was in a rock band with the owner's son Ray Zarb and I often stayed at the Marquis de Montcalm for weekends. So Christian would have been cooking meals for me all those years ago as well. And on the days the restaurant was closed for business we often used it for band practices."
The Marquis de Montcalm attracted many well-known celebrities in the 70s and 80s including film stars Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor and singer/actor David Essex. Sir Alf Ramsay also took the 1966 England team there after they won the World Cup.
During his time in Westerham, Christian married local girl Lindsay Clemans who attended St Hilary's School in Sevenoaks. Lindsay's father was a partner at Sevenoaks company Patullo & Vinson, and then Patullo & Partners, which ran the livestock market, auction house, property company and very successful weekly market near Sevenoaks railway station (now the BT building).
After the Marquis de Montcalm, Christian went on to work with many celebrity chefs in the UK, and was head-hunted by the Roux brothers. He worked for both Albert Roux and Michel Roux, ending up as the head chef for five years at their 3 Michelin star restaurant 'The Waterside Inn' in Bray on Thames, Berkshire.
Christian and Lindsay took over the Chateau de Montreuil 30 years ago and have built it into one of the best hotels and restaurants in the Pas de Calais area.
* For more photos from the golf match between UK & Ireland journalists and a French team click here or go to the Sevenoaks People photo gallery.