Opinion.

Creating authentic cuisine

Teresa Dolan, Owner of Chez Teresa, has been running her small restaurant, tearoom and B&B in the Loire Valley in France with her husband Tony since 2006. The award-winner shares her tips on how to create an authentic French culinary experience for her guests

by Teresa Dolan, Owner, Chez Teresa

Topic: Guest experience

Click. Takeaway

  • Celebrate your region and make the most of the area’s produce, and encourage guests to visit food markets
  • Build relationships with local suppliers, which makes sense from a business and community point of view
  • Flexibility is key: the ability to adapt menus to suits guests’ needs is important
  • Finishing touches – linens, atmosphere – add to the overall pleasantness of the dining experience

Know and celebrate your area

Whatever meal we are making, we reflect as much as possible the local produce. Our guests have told us that they appreciate this. The Loire Valley is famous for its wines and also for its delicious range of goats’ cheeses, so both figure at our place. When we offer a plateau de fromages, we ensure that we buy the freshest and best cheeses straight from the local fromagerie. Or we’ll buy from the local market where the ripe creamy or hard goats’ cheeses are legendary. Many of the supermarkets in our area have also come up trumps with a wonderfully eclectic selection of regional cheeses.

We make use of celebrated mushrooms in the region such as the oversized galipettes, which we stuff with goats’ cheese and roasted vegetables as a starter for an evening meal. It’s another way of celebrating our lush region.

I like to pick up on authentic French recipes and interpret them

That certain French touch

I like to pick up on authentic French recipes and interpret them. One hit with our customers is tarte tatin, made with apples and puff pastry. In season, I sometimes make it with local strawberries. Our area also has some of the very finest of cherry tomatoes, in particular those from Les Jardins de Rabelais near Chinon which is just along the road from Chez Teresa. A savoury tart using these local gems makes for a piquant and tasty dish.

We serve a chocolate fondant as a luxury lunchtime dessert, teatime treat or as part of our evening menu. My recipe was inspired by a traditional French recipe drawn from a wonderful book that I read when we first moved to France, The Elusive Truffle by Mirabel Osler.

Salle a Manger 2017

Dining room at Chez Teresa

Building a rapport with suppliers

Over the years we have established good relationships with many of the stallholders at our fruit and vegetable markets where we buy most of our fresh produce including sublime honeys. It’s good for us both for community liaison and for business. Sometimes vendors even throw little extras for good measure or give us a competitive price. We also encourage our guests to visit our markets, as there is nothing like the colour and atmosphere of a market to illustrate what an area is like. Guests often appreciate an insider’s information.

Give the guests a good start

In our experience, guests like to have a choice for their breakfast. We offer two types: a French “classique” including brioche, butter, homemade jams, local honey, juices and cereals, along with good-quality tea, freshly ground coffee and hot chocolate. For a supplement we offer a popular cooked breakfast, and many of our guests have told us how much they appreciate having such choices.

As we’re in the Loire Valley, in the summer we can offer a bowl of delicious Mara des Bois strawberries with a creamy soya yoghurt or a slice of fresh, chilled melon.

“Can you provide a gluten-free breakfast?” is something we have heard more and more since we first opened Chez Teresa in 2006. We are delighted to do so. Fortunately in France, gluten-free products are readily available and the breadth in the supermarkets has considerably broadened over the years.

Photo de la tarte tatin avec des tomates cerises de la vallée de la loire

Teresa’s interpretation of tarte tatin

Award winner

Managing guests’ expectations is important. At Chez Teresa, we create well-thought-out menus featuring a range of good-quality home-cooked food using locally sourced ingredients. Although we cannot claim to be something we are not, over the years many of our French and international guests have asked for our recipes. They can now buy a copy of the ‘Chez Teresa Recipe Book’, which in 2018 won the Best International Cookbook at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards. These were launched in 1995 by Edouard Cointreau, and they honour the best food and wine books from around the world. To be the recipient of an award is truly an honour and means a great deal to me and to my family.

Presentation is key

If the food is the act, then the table and the dining area are the theatre and the setting. In our experience of running our business, guests appreciate those fine touches such as fresh flowers, candles, attractive serving plates and glasses, freshly laundered table linen and napkins. Such details lead to an overall positive experience. We ensure that the dining area is airy in the warm months and cosy during the winter.

 

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Teresa Dolan, Owner of Chez Teresa, has been running her small restaurant, tearoom and B&B in the Loire Valley in France with her husband Tony since 2006

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