James Bond’s favourite pie maker is on a new mission.
Robert Didier has returned to his first love – the art of baking bread which he learned from the Michelin-starred French master chef, Raymond Blanc.
His new range of artisan bread will be officially launched at Hamper Llangollen 2012, held on Saturday and Sunday, October 20 and 21 at Llangollen Pavilion.
It’s a far cry from when Robert ran a French Bistro in Borough Market, London, which was frequented by the likes of James Bond actor Sean Connery, Expendables 2 star Jason Statham, film director Guy Ritchie and former Chancellor Nigel Lawson.
After moving to North Wales in 2003, Robert established his Wrexham-based pie-making company, Orchard Pigs.
He’s invested more than £20,000 to establish the bakery at his premises on Wrexham Industrial Estate.
Robert is now gearing up for the launch of the new range of more than 40 different types of continental bread including French, German, Polish and Black Sea varieties.
This year’s food festival is being supported by the rural development agency, Cadwyn Clwyd.
Cadwyn Clwyd’s contribution came via the Rural Development Fund for Wales 2007-2013, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Welsh Government.
Robert said: “We don’t have a shop so Hamper Llangollen will give us the perfect showcase to introduce our new range of bread.
“We’ve got everything from carrot and parsnip bread which is a recipe from my English grandmother from the war which I’ve also adapted to create apple and cider bread.
“We even do a lava bread bread with real lava bread! You name it and we’ll give it a go.”
Robert, whose French father was a chef, began his working life at Raymond Blanc’s bakery and patisserie, Maison Blanc, in Oxford, which supplied Harrods and many top London restaurants with authentic French bread and patisseries.
He also did a stint in the kitchen at Blanc’s double Michelin starred restaurant, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, in the Oxfordshire village of Great Milton.
Robert said: “I was extremely fortunate because at the time he was just a friend of the family. His standards are very high. Everything had to be precise.”
He then went stay in the Valence region of the south of France with his grandmother while working as a second chef in a bakery and patisserie, before returning to the UK a year later.
After working for Raymond Blanc for another 12 months, Robert opened his own French bistro, Petit Robert, in London.
He recalled: “We built a very good reputation for ourselves. Jay Rayner, the top restaurant critic and the One Show’s resident food expert, noted us as one of his favourite restaurants.”
It was also the bistro of choice for Sean Connery and the film director Guy Ritchie while Madonna’s ex-husband was filming the British crime-caper,Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Ritchie was regularly joined by the cast which included football hard-man Vinnie Jones and action star Jason Statham, who appears in the explosive new blockbuster The Expendables 2, alongside, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis.
Robert said: “I am a huge James Bond fan and I couldn’t believe my eyes when Sean Connery, the ultimate Bond, walked in – he was an absolute gentleman.”
“Catherine Zeta Jones was another who ate there while one of our regulars was Nigel Lawson, the former Chancellor and the father of the kitchen diva, Nigella Lawson.”
Robert and his family moved Bwlchgwyn, in 2003 after his restaurant was compulsorily purchased to make way for a new railway line.
He bought Nant y Ffrith forest, a 250 acre mixed woodland, and populated it with a herd of Oxford sandy and black pigs.
Robert explained: “We needed an outlet for the meat so Orchard Pigs was born. Orchard Pigs is the pseudonym for the breed of pigs we kept.
“We started off with Wrexham farmer’s market selling bacon and sausages and cuts of meat and it’s grown quite rapidly from then on”
Robert’s company, Orchard Pigs, now makes a range of handmade pies and pastries – including their trademark Tractor wheel pie, using local free range produce.
He said: “Baking bread has always been a passion of mine so you could say I’m returning to my first love.
“We now employ three members of staff and we are investing £20,000 in the bakery side of the business. Most of it going on an oven to make stone-baked bread so it can have that true French feel.”
Also starring at Hamper Llangollen 2012 will be a trio of Wales’s top chefs.
Graham Tinsley, the star of ITV’s Taste the Nation and a former captain of the Welsh Culinary Team, will be joined in the show kitchen by S4C favourite Dudley Newberry.
Completing the hat-trick will be the ever popular Dai Chef, who is returning to the event after an absence of several years.
Robert Price added: “Thanks to a whole host of indigenous companies, North East Wales is rapidly establishing a reputation as a centre of excellence for high quality cuisine.
“The food festival is a perfect shop window for the companies who form the backbone of our rural economy.
“The location of the Pavilion is absolutely spectacular – I can’t imagine that any other food festival in the UK has a more beautiful setting.”