Bringing English cheese to the dinner tables of France
SOME might say that selling English cheese in France is a bit like sending coals to Newcastle, but for Adrian Perryman it's a chance to show off the rich tastes the UK has to offer.
Since moving to France in 2003 with his partner Jannie, the former chef and builder has become a regular at village markets around the Creuse offering up a cheeseboard bearing some of the most famous names from England.
But Adrain has also faced the challenges any new business has to beat when setting up in France, tackling the paperwork involved, a little scepticism from locals and the current tightening of belts by many.
"I have some Cheddars and a variety of cheeses from Lancashire, with both strong types and creamy ones, all with a lot more taste than the packaged varieties you find in the supermarket," Adrian said.
"People can also try a Stilton, Shropshire Blue and Sage Derby, all my cheeses come from a supplier in Paris, and when French customers pass the stall there is always a look of, "What? English cheeses?"
"So I offer them the chance to try a piece, they'll taste it and then walk on a step or two, then the flavour will hit them and they go, "Ah, that's nice" and some will turn round and buy some."
After working in the UK as a chef and finding that split shifts meant he spent a lot of time away from home, Adrain decided to become a builder, but five years ago he and Jannie decided a move to France was what they wanted, although they were not too sure on exactly where they might head to.
"We had seen mention that the Limousin was the 'forgotten France' and decided to travel in that direction, we didn't really know the area but we wanted a better life, one we couldn't afford in the UK, and a bit of land," Adrian said.
"So we arrived in a village just north west of Gueret, and it was November so very cold, found a place we liked and made our home here.
"We looked around at what we could do to make a few pennies and at first thought about selling English food, but the supermarkets were already supplying them, so the idea of selling proper cheese came about and we started in 2005."
Adrian had to tackle the paperwork involved in both starting his business but also in finding market pitches to sell his cheeses, he had thought of having a shop, but wondered if people would travel to buy his products.
Another thing that appealed to Adrain was the fact that as cheese played such an important role at the French dinner table, he could appeal to locals as well as Brits living in the region.
"Starting up the business wasn't easy, we started at the Chambres de Métiers and made sure we had all the correct paperwork, but we still ended up having to come home to get more and return to the office," said Adrian.
"But we got there and now I go to the markets in the region on a regular basis, sometimes fortnightly, so I'll visit places such as Borganeuf, Peyrat le Chateau, Eymoutiers and getting set up with them wasn't too difficult.
"I just arrived at the village mairie and asked if I could have a pitch on the market, I was able to try the market out to see if it proved successful and then I would register."
Like many people Adrian has seen the exchange rate prove difficult for his business, as well as the rising cost of fuel, but he is confident of the future and has plans to try out markets in the north of the Dordogne.
Alongside his cheeses he also offers bacon and sausages made by an English butcher in France and has even had British customers buy a couple of kilos to take back to the UK to enjoy.
But what would Adrian offer up to French guests at his own dinner table to give them a taste of what the UK has to offer?
"For the table I'd offer up a Montgomery Cheddar, a strong Lancashire, definitely a Sage Derby and a Red Leicester, such cloth covered cheeses are best served at dinner and these picks would really appeal," Adrian said.
Contact: Adrian Perryman
Tel: 05 55 89 98 47