Sébastien & Sarah
Chef and manager
20 years ago, Sébastien obtained his cookery CAP, which instilled in him a love of cooking. An adventurer, he left for England without knowing a word of Shakespeare’s language. With a good grounding in the language, he started out as a commis, then a sous-chef and finally a chef in a relay and château. After living in Nottingham for 9 years, he finally decided to return to France, but to the south, where he met Sarah.
Sarah has had an unusual career. Born in New Zealand, she travelled to England and Paris to work in the fashion industry. Then, as the economy took a turn for the worse, she became a waitress and then a room manager in a large wine bar in Paris. Then, the sea and the sun beckoned and she left Paris for the South of France, where another adventure began. In love with France and its gastronomy, from great dishes to great wines, it’s only a short step from great dresses to wine dresses!
They met at their place of work and, following the wind of this, they decided to take on a management position together and it was in Eze at the Auberge de la Croix du Pape that they set up. An authentic cuisine made from local produce, cooked over a wood fire, with a local wine list. After a while, unable to buy back their restaurant, they decided to leave.
Back to New Zealand to introduce the children to their roots. Sébastien is now working for a major hotel group with huge responsibilities, and is delighted with the challenge. Sarah is a restaurant manager in a luxury hotel. But after 7 years, when we had tasted independence and above all worked together (which was no longer the case), the desire to move reappeared!
The third child for a start! It’s not enough! So they searched and searched to find another place to set up. And on the internet, Sébastien saw a management position up for grabs in Saumur. The description reminded him of a restaurant he knew well: Claudie’s.
He dared to call from so far away. A few phone calls, Skype calls and emails followed. For a year, everyone prepared for this moment on their own. A new story was written at Restaurant Les Dames de la Loire. A touch of the exotic blows through the demands of the setting and Claudie’s maintenance.
And the rest of the story is being built – since 2018 Sébastien has been in charge of the kitchen. He continues to ensure the smooth running of the kitchen and thus the business. Little by little, he is adding personal touches to the menus offered to customers. By making these changes gently, we’ve kept our loyal customers and won new ones. We’ve kept our tried-and-tested recipes (like our bread!) while adding our own personal and creative touches, and at the same time introducing new dishes. The result is a cuisine that changes and evolves with the seasons and the innovations on the menu.
Sébastien, Sarah and Claudie continue to run the business as a three-way partnership. Since July 2020, the three of us have continued to evolve and develop our ideas, while retaining the spirit of Les Dames de la Loire.
Sommelier and manager
Sommelier for over 30 years, Maitre Sommelier, Best Young Sommelier of Burgundy and Franche Comté 1990, she has always been passionate about wine tasting. For her, you have to listen to it because it speaks! It speaks of a history, a civilisation, a culture, a story, a landscape. It’s transgenerational! It comes from her childhood memories of every family meal, when a vintage wine would take us back in time with family scenes from that year, generating laughter and conviviality even beyond the bickering! What magic! Then there was the right to have red wine with cheese, once you’d made your communion! It was the pride of having finally left the world of childhood behind! Wine is divine!
How can you not make a career out of it when you’re formatted like that? She wanted to be an oenologist, but was forbidden because “it’s not a job for girls”. A true epicurean, she chose to train in catering. That’s when she discovered a job she hadn’t even heard of: sommelier. She spoke about it to her restaurant teacher at the end of her BEP and he told her “it’s not a job for girls! That was too much! She continued her studies in a class where there was a mention for sommelier and she went all the way.
Over the years, she has learnt that if you want to talk about wine, you have to know yourself and not lie to yourself, because teaching others to put the right words to your olfactory and gustatory senses means that you are talking about your own self. And she believes that everyone can enjoy wine, because we all have this cellular memory hidden deep within us, since wine has existed since the Bronze Age. All we have to do is awaken it. That’s also her idea of helping people to eat better by using wine as a tool.
Dynamic, she enjoys meditating as much as juggling in a restaurant between wines in glasses, decanting and matching dishes with wines.
A great epicurean and a defender of the culture of taste, don’t tell her that wine is alcohol! At 1.50 metres tall, she’d be smoking out of her ears! But she will wisely tell you that “wine is meant to be shared, alcohol to be burnt! It’s called an eau de vie made from wine, raspberries or pears. If you want to burn yourself, don’t drink wine!