In 2001, at the age of 30, I decided to move to France and so began my search to find the perfect property. The brief was crystal clear in my mind. It HAD to be symmetrical, it HAD to have a tower and it HAD to have a standout staircase. I was lucky enough to stumble across Chateau du Chiron on day three of the search.
This magnificent building was the ideal size, it came complete with just the right amount of land and while the accommodation was very tired, it was habitable. Key to its appeal were the additional outbuildings and a fabulous gate house which were just calling out to be renovated, all in all, the dream set-up to realise my aspirations of running a chateau rental business. This stunningly grand manor house ticked all the boxes as a base from which I could immerse myself in my love of cooking and design, and actually make a living out of it.
Had I ever renovated a chateau before? NO. Could I speak French? NO, (well, I could just about order a coffee and a croissant in the local patisserie!!) But these were mere details. Obstacles yes, but I didn’t have any doubts and I got stuck into the renovations without a second thought, fueled by passion and the belief it would work.
I was very lucky to quickly establish some amazing friends, who helped me with my French and who to this day, I still refer to as my French family. They introduced me to new experiences, new foods and a new way of life that I instinctively knew represented the way forward for me.
Slowly we began to make progress with the renovation of the chateau and my vision for the property began to take shape. It was a massive undertaking and although there was no specific timeline, a sense of urgency prevailed to enable me to get the business up and running.
After two years, I was ready to open the doors to paying friends and friends of friends and I could finally get down to doing what I loved most, entertaining and cooking. Gradually the business took off and over the next 15 years turned into an amazingly successful venture. Although incredibly hard work, it was immensely satisfying and I never lost sight of my original love of looking after guests and dreaming up fabulous feasts.
I tried to write a cookery book but it proved one job too many alongside my other responsibilities. It was then that I met Jo who came to stay at the chateau. She kept nagging me to write the book but insisted that it should be lifestyle led rather than just concentrating on cooking, providing a natural vehicle to showcase my personal top tips and entertaining ideas.
In December 2018 I decided to sell the chateau and move to a beach house near Bordeaux representing another dramatic life change. With the chateau gone, I found myself just metres from the beach, once again living the dream, in an idyllic location. So, this is where I find myself now. At last I have the time to concentrate on what I’ve always wanted to do, and Simply by Jimmy is no longer a distant ambition.
Of course, Simply By Jimmy was always going to revolve around food but there is more to the brand than just recipes and cooking. I am slowly developing a SBJ range of linens and essential cookware. Since I have always preferred to shop in small independent shops my exclusively designed products are all made by hand in the UK by artisan businesses.