David and Vikki Chance moved to Gascony in 2007, where they teamed up with local chef Bernard Corbière to run a thriving cookery school. After speaking to the couple in September 2010, Living France catches up with them for a five-year update
Moving to France was quite challenging, from both a personal and also a business perspective. Not only were we starting up a new business, meaning a big reduction in our income, but Vikki was also commuting between two countries, as she was still working in the UK. It was difficult spending a lot of time apart, and when we were in France we missed our family and friends enormously. Fortunately our village is a very welcoming one, and so our new friends and neighbours here helped us to settle into our new way of life.
The majority of our business now comes from the internet and word of mouth, so we have had to adapt our marketing strategies accordingly. We have had so much interest from cookery school guests wanting to return, that last year we introduced a new advanced course, as well as a charcuterie course. We have also taken the Gascony Cookery School out ‘on location’ to meet the demands of those wanting to learn to cook in their own environment as a group activity.
There are always challenges when running your own business. Although we both speak French, there are often occasions when language presents a problem. Not a day goes by without us learning new words and vocabulary, or a new choice expression. Learning French is crucial if you wish to integrate and be accepted.
The most rewarding aspect of this job is meeting so many different people from all corners of the world, sitting on our terrace enjoying our amazing views and sharing our stories and, of course, enjoying the fabulous food and wine from this area.
We are thrilled when our guests say how much they have enjoyed staying with us, and that the experience left them feeling so much a part of our village life here in France.
Our advice is to be prepared for the pace of life here, which is far slower. David was often reminded by Bernard when he wanted to steam ahead: “Calme, David, c’est le sud-ouest de la France!” (“Calm David, it’s the south-west of France!”). Also, buy a calendar so that you know the dates of the bank holidays, as there are many! Most of all, do it, and remember you are in France and not in the UK. We wish we had done it sooner!”