FOOD FOR THOUGHT

When Katie Bromilow de­cided to swap life on the seas for dry land she chose to put down roots in the vil­lage of Tour­rettes-sur-Loup in AlpesMar­itimes, where she works as a pri­vate chef. Vicky Leigh tells her story

Living France - - CONTENTS - lamaison­de­pol­lier.com

Pri­vate chef Katie Bromilow re­veals why she chose to set­tle in Tour­rettes-sur-Loup

As a stu­dent in Eng­land, Katie Bromilow de­cided that one of the things she’d like to do was learn French, so when she fin­ished her de­gree she set off for France to work on a barge on the Bur­gundy canals. Cen­tred in Aux­erre, she would travel up and down the region’s canals cook­ing for clients from all over the world.

“I was very much learn­ing on the job and that’s where I de­cided that cook­ing was some­thing I re­ally wanted to pur­sue as a ca­reer, so with the money I earned in France I paid for a course at Prue Leith’s Cook­ery School in Lon­don,” ex­plains Katie. Af­ter com­plet­ing the course she went on to cook in var­i­ous dif­fer­ent jobs, but her ex­pe­ri­ence on the barge in Bur­gundy had given her a taste for life on a boat.

“This time I thought I’d like to try a sail­boat, al­though with no pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence of this kind of work, I didn’t re­ally know what I was get­ting into, but I got a job and that’s where I started to cook pro­fes­sion­ally,” says Katie. This marked the be­gin­ning of a six-year stint on the seas, dur­ing which time she honed her skills while trav­el­ling around the Mediter­ranean, sail­ing around the Greek Is­lands, Cor­sica and the south coast of France. She would of­ten spend win­ters in the Caribbean and sum­mers on the east coast of Amer­ica, but when she met her fu­ture hus­band, a yacht skip­per, it was time for an­other change.

FEET ON THE GROUND

“When we got mar­ried I wanted to live ashore, so we started look­ing at where would be best for us,” says Katie. “It was com­pli­cated be­cause we both had fam­ily in Eng­land and at that time the yacht­ing in­dus­try there wasn’t as big. We did look there and also in Spain, but we ended up in the south of France be­cause leisure yacht­ing was such a big in­dus­try, and it also meant we’d be close to an in­ter­na­tional air­port in Nice.”

Katie al­ready spoke some French when they ar­rived and hav­ing a knowl­edge of both the lan­guage and the coun­try cer­tainly helped when it came to set­tling in. “I come from a fam­ily of Fran­cophiles and we used to go on camp­ing hol­i­days in the north of France when I was grow­ing up, so I didn’t feel I was in an en­tirely for­eign coun­try, and hav­ing a base to start from in terms of the lan­guage meant that flu­ency came quite quickly,” she says.

The couple bought a prop­erty in­land from the coast in Tour­rettes-sur-Loup, a vil­lage per­ché in the beau­ti­ful Loup val­ley backed by a range of hills. Their choice of lo­ca­tion paid off as they both found work. Many of the peo­ple Katie had cooked for on the sail­boats owned sec­ond homes in this part of France, and so she be­gan work­ing as a chef in pri­vate res­i­dences.

“For the first couple of years I didn’t have a rhythm as this type of work is very sea­sonal, but bit by bit I man­aged to get jobs that dove­tailed to­gether all the way through the sum­mer from about Easter un­til Oc­to­ber,” says Katie. “Most of the peo­ple I work for are clients I’ve worked with for a very long time, but ev­ery year I try to do a couple of din­ners for new clients be­cause that keeps me on my toes. Cook­ing for peo­ple is a very nice thing to do be­cause they’re very ap­pre­cia­tive and that’s re­ally lovely.”

The fresh lo­cal pro­duce pro­vides Katie with plenty of in­spi­ra­tion for her cook­ing, and she also likes to in­tro­duce in­flu­ences from other cuisines such as Asian and Thai as this sort of food suits the warm cli­mate of the south of France.

The clients she cooked for of­ten wanted to learn how cer­tain dishes were made,

and she would give them a cook­ery les­son in their own kitchens, which gave her the idea of run­ning classes in a kitchen that had been de­signed for such a pur­pose.

BUSI­NESS AND PLEA­SURE

When their el­derly neigh­bour, who they’d known since they first ar­rived, passed away in 1999, the op­por­tu­nity arose to pur­chase her house. As there was no one to in­herit the prop­erty it was left to two char­i­ties, so Katie and her hus­band made them both an of­fer and al­though it took a while, they man­aged to buy it in 2003.

In 2006 they be­gan to carry out the nec­es­sary ren­o­va­tion work, and as the house had been empty for some time there was a con­sid­er­able amount to do, in­clud­ing work to the roof.

“I said to my hus­band that what I’d re­ally like was a nice kitchen, but I didn’t want stain­less steel and white tiles ev­ery­where as I wanted it to be a com­fort­able home too, so we in­stalled a very nice kitchen that works well for both,” says Katie. The house has two be­d­rooms up­stairs and the large kitchen down­stairs, and is used for Katie’s cook­ery classes as well as pro­vid­ing handy guest ac­com­mo­da­tion when fam­ily and friends come to visit.

“The ma­jor­ity of my work is still cook­ing in pri­vate homes, but of­fer­ing the cook­ery classes is very re­ward­ing as an ad­di­tional thing to do,” says Katie. “It’s very sat­is­fy­ing to help other peo­ple and give them in­for­ma­tion. There are so many things you can teach your­self in cook­ing, but there are a few lit­tle things that can help if some­one gives you some ex­tra tips.”

Many of her clients nat­u­rally want to learn more about Provençal-style cook­ing as they’re keen to add this di­men­sion to their stay in this part of France, but the classes are all cus­tom-de­signed to meet in­di­vid­ual re­quire­ments based on what they want to learn or achieve. The yacht­ing in­dus­try here also means that she of­ten teaches groups of young peo­ple who need to do in­ten­sive cook­ing classes, which she finds par­tic­u­larly en­joy­able.

“A lot of peo­ple just want to do a day’s course, have lunch and en­joy the sur­round­ings,” says Katie. “Some find that it’s too hot to be in the kitchen all day, es­pe­cially in the sum­mer, and by the end of the morn­ing I of­ten find they’re drift­ing to­wards the French win­dows! I usu­ally aim to break for lunch and then we come back into the kitchen to make a dessert.”

LOV­ING LIFE

Choos­ing to put down roots in this part of France was the right de­ci­sion in terms of the life­style it has af­forded them too. The peace­ful sur­round­ings and prox­im­ity to the coast pro­vide them with the best of both worlds, and while Katie’s hus­band en­joys the fan­tas­tic cy­cling op­por­tu­ni­ties on the doorstep (a lot of pro­fes­sional cy­clists come here to train), they both love to hike in the sur­round­ing hills, of­ten go­ing out for three or four hours at week­ends or when­ever they can.

“There’s such a di­ver­sity of land­scapes along this stretch of coast and we got very lucky when we came here,” says Katie. “The dream French life­style – the idea of wan­der­ing down to the bak­ery to pick up a baguette and en­joy­ing a café crème in the square – is very much a re­al­ity in Tour­rettes-sur-Loup.”

They of­ten say it’s a case of be­ing in the right place at the right time, and this has cer­tainly turned out to be the right place for Katie. Af­ter 26 years here she can’t imag­ine liv­ing any­where else.

“We’ve been very happy here and wher­ever we go we al­ways re­turn happy that this is where we based our­selves,” says Katie. “It has all the things that in­ter­est us – the yacht­ing, the cook­ing, the plea­sure of go­ing walk­ing to­gether. This feels en­tirely like home and there isn’t any­where else that we love as much.”

“There isn’t any­where else that we love as much as here”

Katie also runs cook­ery classes from the prop­erty that she and her hus­band ren­o­vated in 2006

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