A HEALTHY PROFIT
France isn’t known for being the easiest place to live a vegetarian lifestyle, but things are slowly changing. Catherine Cooper speaks to three British women running vegetarian businesses across the Channel
Cover story Three British women reveal how they have made a success of their vegetarian businesses in France
Before I moved to France in 2000 I was very much part of the rat race working as an international account manager and travelling all over the world. In what little spare time I had I trained to be a holistic masseuse and shiatsu practitioner, knowing that I didn’t want to live this life forever.
I moved to France with my thenhusband in September, but by the end of the year, our marriage was over. So the first few years were pretty hard – setting up on my own and speaking no French.
Initially I worked as a masseuse, setting up the B&B in September 2001. I’ve been vegetarian for 30 years but found that in rural France, most people simply don’t get what it means – some will do things like pick the lardons off a salad as you watch.
I’ve never cooked meat in the house and initially when people were staying and wanted food, I’d apologise for it being meatfree. But usually they loved it and so the idea to specialise in vegetarian and vegan food took hold. We have an 80m2 potager, and so many of our vegetables are grown on site.
I now also offer bespoke veggie and vegan cooking classes which can work in a couple of ways – local people will come up to cook lunch, chat about nutrition, food combinations, flavours and colours while we enjoy a glass of wine together, and cook again so they’ll have something to take away with them at the end of the day. Or, our B&B guests will join me in preparing, cooking and presenting the evening meal – a sort of ‘DIY’ dinner that’s informative, friendly and great fun!
More and more veggie establishments are popping up which is great to see, and the French themselves are beginning to demand more veggie options. My clients are usually from Holland, Belgium or England, but recently modern French couples and families have come to stay who are interested in the vegetarian or vegan way of life.
We appeared on Escape to the Continent a few years ago to offer advice to a vegetarian couple retiring to this area who wanted to know if it’s possible to be veggie and still be in France. Well, thankfully, it’s getting easier all the time. Veggie products are available in supermarkets and caterers are gradually taking it seriously and putting veggie options on their menu.
The B&B is not just about the food – we have a hot tub and offer spa treatments and various workshops – but I like to think creative veggie cooking and eating well is a big draw.”
“I like to think that creative veggie cooking and eating well is a big draw” Nikki Emmerton, 54, lives with her partner Sean Dylan Williams, 46, in Cellefrouin, Charente. She runs vegetarian cooking master classes from their vegetarian and vegan spa and B&B.
These pages: Nikki Emmerton and her partner Sean Dylan Williams run bespoke vegetarian and vegan cooking classes at their B&B and spa, Under the Lime Tree, in Charente