Working and learning at the Nant
by Laurent Gorce
Nant Gwrtheyrn has been a special place for me for many years now. As a keen hiker, mountain and trail ultra-runner, it meets many of my needs. Very technical coastal paths and mountainous terrain but also has the bonus of some of the most beautiful views on the Llŷn Peninsula. On a clear day, you can see the whole of the peninsula as far as Aberdaron on one side, and as far as Holyhead (and even a glimpse of Ireland) on the other side. You can also get a nice panad and cake at the end of your outing.
As I discovered new paths and adventures, I also found a lot of hidden historical gems all around the area. From down on the beach to the top of the mynyddoedd (mountain tops in Welsh), you can find remains of the mining and farming industry of Nant Gwrtheyrn and even some from the Iron Age dating back from the Roman invasions.
I was very lucky in January to be appointed as Head Chef at Nant Gwrtheyrn. An amazing opportunity for me to work at one of the most beautiful and culturally important spots on the Llŷn Peninsula. Their vision of the future and the catering department was a perfect match for my love to cook with locally-sourced fresh ingredients and homegrown products such as the rhubarb used in our crumble. The variety and flexibility to cater at Caffi Meinir, from the weddings, to the conferences and the Welsh language courses means that I get to plan and cook a varied array of freshly-prepared dishes (goodbye monotony of cooking the same thing every day). What a fantastic opportunity it is, having been raised and trained in France (I moved to the UK in 1998) to now use my roots and experience and adapt them to Welsh produce and dishes.
The Welsh Language and cultural heritage are at the heart of the site. When I started in my role, my Welsh was basic, but Nant is the kind of place that invests in their staff. To help me develop my Welsh, they offered me to take part in the language courses delivered on-site. I attended the intensive week course Mynediad 2 run by the fantastic on-site tutors in February. Previously, I had learnt through doing one lesson a week, so the idea of doing it for a whole week full-time felt very daunting. How wrong was I?! The way the tutors taught us, although intensive and covering so much, made Welsh interesting and exciting to learn. All the students were in the same boat and of similar level. The tutors created a classroom experience that promoted high learning in a friendly atmosphere. The speed of learning was appropriate for everyone to ensure we achieved our objectives comfortably.
I met a very nice bunch of people and gladly shared my knowledge of the area with them; we also had fun evenings learning about clocsio and singing Welsh folk songs. We have all stayed in touch and we exchange learning tips and practice. My co-workers have all been fantastic to help me practicing my Welsh and I can integrate better through their patience and understanding of my learning.
Being on the course also gave me an insight to what kind of people come to the Nant to learn Welsh, what their expectations of Nant are and how we can give them the best experience possible.
I’m looking forward to this new adventure, to better myself and be a part of the development of Nant towards its future…. and of course, with many miles of mountains and coastal paths surrounding me.