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British-run Auvergne bistro wins top award

Meet the British chef who is making waves in French cuisine. 

British cuisine is not generally lauded in France. Manchester-born chef Chris Wright (44) proved the exception to this rule when, at the start of November, he was recognised by the Le Fooding Guide for L'Epicerie de Dienne, which awarded Wright with “best village bistro” for the business he runs single-handedly in Cantal in the Auvergne.

The success of Dienne’s café-cum-village store was perhaps to be expected, given Chris Wright’s CV, which features 14 years as chef of Le Timbre, the tiny but much-loved Parisian restaurant named after a postage stamp. More surprising is the fact that his culinary skills are entirely self-taught, and that his life in France happened by accident. The story goes that he stopped over in Paris on his way back from skiing in the French Alps and never left. He was only given the opportunity to start cooking when a chef in the restaurant where he worked left and no replacement could be found.

Chris Wright subsequently moved to Cantal in the Auvergne in search of a quieter existence, setting up the épicerie as somewhere “where you could get a nice slice of ham and cheese”. His shop sells an eclectic array of quality organic items, as Le Fooding notes: “from sticky rice to fruit juice and coconut oil”.

The menus in the bistro are simple but delicious, and at 18€ for three courses, or 20€ if you add in a cheese course, they are good value, too. In making its award, Le Fooding highlighted in particular the épicerie’s quinoa, avocado and Brazil nut salad, Devon scones and vegan vegetable Kiev.

The Le Fooding guide prides itself on its unconventional, cosmopolitan approach, frequenting eateries that are off the beaten track and singling out chefs with a fresh approach. Unlike many other food guides, it pays for the meals its reviewers consume and refuses to carry adverts for restaurants as a means for raising funds. Alongside Chris Wright, in the awards for 2017, Le Fooding named Italian chef Giovanni Passerini Chef of the Year for his modern take on a trattoria in Paris, and recognised two Japanese chefs for their work.

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