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Maryann's food memories... Late twenties

Simons first job after graduating was in Rickmansworth just outside London, we lodged with my maternal grandma Blodwen for a while in Harmondsworth.

Joel was just a few months old and I was enjoying just caring for him and learning to be a mum and then we decided to start house hunting, I remember us looking at a map and seeing where we could afford to buy a house and where Simon could get to work by train and it was Milton Keynes.

After a couple of weekends of viewings we decided to buy our first house, the tiniest two bedroomed terraced house which we loved and suddenly felt very grown up and stayed there happily for a couple of years, we then decided to move back to Wales when Simon got a new job in Cardiff and eventually back to my roots in Nantgaredig. 

We bought a cottage which made a great family home and where we have lived ever since. Coincidentally we have just put it in the market, pandemics do make you rethink your priorities.

Simon soon fell in love with rural Wales but continued to commute to Cardiff for a few years before joining us in the business, I could now help my family run the restaurant my parents had set up on a bit of a whim in a converted barn which they called the “Four Seasons”. It was named literally after my mums favourite cookery book by Margaret Costa and summed up seasonal cooking using lots of super fresh vegetables from dads garden and greenhouse and local meat and fish.

My parents were brave and forward thinking, having spent a lot in time in France they wanted to recreate an auberge type restaurant in Wales which really hadn’t been done before, they converted the building which had previously housed cattle and calves on their small holding simply with white washed stone walks and slate floors, wood burning stoves and mum did most of the cooking on a scarlet red Aga.

Looking back on old menus it still sounds delicious, local fillet steak, bearnaise sauce, dauphinoise potatoes, slow cooked Welsh lamb, ratatouille, the epic grape and almond tart- a recipe we use with seasonal fruits to this day, meringues, strawberries and cream - sounds familiar? It was ground breaking for Carmarthenshire and very much in demand one reason my parents were happy for us to help out and eventually take over with my two sisters.

This is how I suddenly found myself a “chef.” Whilst living in Cardiff I had returned to college for a year and had a couple of part time jobs whilst Joel was a toddler but fell easily into full time work once he had started school, days were spent prepping for evening service, we opened five evenings a week and within days I was cooking main courses and baking bread, you are fearless when young. 

We were there for 15 years in total and those years flew, we had a number of ups and downs but the business thrived and became well known and highly respected, we were able to have more or less annual holidays in Europe and the Canaries and explored a great deal of France particularly on one memorable holiday in a hastily bought minibus with one of my sisters and three small boys spending three weeks virtually traversing all of France staying in small hotels from St Jean do Luz eating amazing crab stuffed mushrooms ( yes they appeared on the menu for a number of years) to a slightly stuffy ‘ Relais de Silence’ in Central France where the boys thought they were not allowed to talk at all, to Paris and the newly opened Euro Disney.

Memories for me include the look on the boys faces when Simons “grande bier" ( I think it was possibly a litre - and probably way over our budget) arrived at our table overlooking the Eiffel Tower. For the boys the much anticipated Disney experience was obviously the highlight of the long tour.

Jamie arrived in 1994 when Joel was 7 and was an easy and content baby, I went back to work when he was 3 weeks old dropping him with my mum in his carrycot in the evening and heading straight back into the kitchen.