We hosted James Martin at our French B&B

PUBLISHED: 14:17 01 June 2017 | UPDATED: 11:53 06 June 2017

British expat Chris Millinship cooks for TV chef James Martin © Chris and Anita Millinship

British expat Chris Millinship cooks for TV chef James Martin © Chris and Anita Millinship


Chris Millinship has had many guests stay at his B&B in Dordogne, but none quite as famous as James Martin, who stayed with Chris during his popular television series

How did you get involved with the programme?

The television crew were planning to do a special Dordogne episode and they wanted a beautiful place in the area to shoot. We’re situated at the edge of the Vézère valley, and have lovely panoramic riverside views so I think it was a good choice for the programme.

What was your reaction when you heard James Martin was coming to stay with you?

I didn’t know who James Martin was! I’ve lived in Périgord for 38 years without British television so I kind of missed the whole celebrity chef thing. But I asked around a bit and I bought one of his books before he arrived.

What did James do while he was staying with you?

He was quite keen on showcasing some of the region’s produce and he visited the nearby market at Rouffignac, which he loved and he bought some strawberries to use in a dessert while there.

Did you cook for James?

Yes, I’ve been cooking for around 40 years and I made James duck magret with truffle sauce.

Were you nervous?

I was nervous, of course. I didn’t realise that I would be cooking and that James would then be eating it in front of the cameras. There was nowhere to hide! But I think he enjoyed it anyway.


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Hotel Castel-Merle is known as 'Auberge de charme' © Chris and Anita MillinshipHotel Castel-Merle is known as 'Auberge de charme' © Chris and Anita Millinship

What did the locals make of having a celebrity chef to stay in the area?

The local French guys were a bit in awe I suppose; they thought it was great fun. I invited our neighbours for an apéritif and to watch the programme, which they really enjoyed, and the mayor was very happy to see the village on TV.

Why did you move to France?

I first came to France as a 16-year-old when I came to work for a summer at Auberge Castel-Merle. It was here that I met and fell in love my future wife, the daughter of the hotel’s owners! Yes, I met my future wife while washing up!

Why did you decide to run an auberge?

The hotel has been in Anita’s family for five generations, and her parents were keen for it to stay in the family and for the business to continue, and so when they retired in 1984, they asked us to take it over. It was a big decision. We worked very hard, doing weddings and so on, and we completely restored the farm that was here before into a small hotel, more like a B&B, with a few more rooms.

What’s the business like today?

The auberge now has nine rooms and over the years, we have let go of the restaurant side of things, instead keeping it simple with a bar serving tea and snacks. However, I still make truffle omelettes, if people want them. I’ve made thousands of omelettes!


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Chris & Anita Millinship at their home in Périgord, Dordogne © Chris and Anita MillinshipChris & Anita Millinship at their home in Périgord, Dordogne © Chris and Anita Millinship

What are your hopes for the future of the business?

I hope our twin daughters will take over the business when we retire. We’re not quite finished yet though! We’re looking forward to this summer when the Tour de France will pass through our village of Sergeac.

Do you think James Martin would ever move to France?

James actually said to me, ‘I wouldn’t mind having a place like yours and doing 50 meals a day’. You can see that the call of France is still there; he’s got a lot of fond memories of France. I think he’s got to make the move to France. You’ve got to, otherwise you regret it.


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