A Long Weekend with David Pritchard

Watching Rick Stein’s Long Weekend in Bordeaux for the umpteenth time when it was repeated earlier this month brought back many happy memories but, on this occasion, it was tinged with considerable sadness. The director and producer David Pritchard, who had worked with Rick for many years, died a few weeks before this showing, following a brave battle with cancer.

On the face of it, the visit by David, Rick and the production team to Château Bauduc on the last day of our harvest in 2015 had culminated in just a few minutes of TV – albeit primetime BBC. By then though, David and I had become good friends and our friendship would continue, from afar, long after the filming had ended. So here’s a small tribute to the great man, with a gallery of pictures of his reconnaissance trip to Bordeaux, when he was accompanied by his wife and assistant Fiona, and of the filming of the Long Weekend itself with his crew.

David was an avid consumer of our newsletter – he would often call afterwards or drop us a line – so it seems only appropriate.

We had first met, briefly, some 15 years ago when he was about to film Rick and his ‘French Odyssey’, which was set along the Canal du Midi and had kicked off in Bordeaux.

For the Rick Stein’s Long Weekend series, David wanted to return to Bordeaux and to La Tupina, the characterful restaurant where they’d filmed before. But where else? His production assistant from his TV company, Liz, got in touch, just as we had started the September 2015 harvest for our whites. They needed to move quickly, and could I help Rick and David out? I said I could but, with a harvest to bring in, and the wine to make, I wouldn’t be able to coordinate the city part. I roped in our friend and Bordeaux expert Emma Quancard for that.

So we put together a plan for David and Fiona, his wife and assistant, to come and stay in the city and then at Bauduc on a reconnaissance trip. And what fun we had. Hard work, but fun.

After they’d been to Emma’s suggestions in the city of Bordeaux, such as the restaurant Garopapilles and Petit Commerce, both of which featured in the programme, it was time for the vineyards. I picked David and Fiona up from their cheap and cheerful hotel near the quais and off we went up the D2 to the Médoc.

Of course, this wasn’t a vineyard tour. This was about Rick, food and wine, and a weekend away. So day one, just as it did in the programme even if it may not have across, involved two lunches. First we planned where to film using a drone and on the ground, and that was up on the border between St-Julien and Pauillac. First stop then was Chez Mémé nearby, a small restaurant run by a young couple in St-Julien where local winemakers go, then on to Château Phélan-Ségur in St-Estèphe.

David fortunately loved both but I’d made my first mistake. I’d forgotten to tell Véronique Dausse, the boss at Phélan-Ségur, that I was going to be cooking a côte de bœuf on the vines at Château Bauduc – our signature dish. She’d stolen my party piece and David loved it, and he knew Rick would too. Damn. What other regional dish could I cook?

I suggested Pauillac lamb, a specialty of the area, and I explained how these young lambs were specially kept away from munching on vines in secretive small farms, set back from the vineyards. “Right. Let’s find one” said David. I was to discover that this was classic Mr Pritchard: go off piste, and off plan, in search of something different. Through an artisan butcher, I managed to track down a bergerie, or small sheep farm, tucked away in the pine forests of the Médoc, where three generations of a family kept these young lambs in relatively luxurious conditions. We found it right at the end of the day, and David was entranced by these beautiful animals; so I was duly under orders to have our local butcher prepare a joint.

I roasted the gigot d’agneau the following evening, and Angela made a dauphinoise, and Mr P pronounced that it was the best lamb he’d ever eaten in France. It was, to be fair, perfectly cooked, and well rested, if you like your lamb pink. So, new to the TV schedule was Rick going to see the young lambs being reared, and then me cooking a leg of one of them. Something told me that this wasn’t an ideal PR scenario.

The following day we went to Pomerol and St-Emilion and had a lovely time, watching the harvest come in at Château Clinet, and then off to Saint-Emilion. I’d always assumed that a visit to this archetypal medieval wine village was a must. But David had what might be described as an allergic reaction to the number of tourists there, shipped in by coach and following tour guides holding ID paddles aloft. So my plan had a large hole in it.

“You say on the schedule that you’re not available for that afternoon when we were supposed to be filming in Saint Emilion,” said David. “What are you up to?”
“I’ve committed to judging in a wine competition in the Graves” I said. “That would be perfect. Can Rick and his son Charlie (who’s in the wine trade) come too?” So that’s what happened.

Then after a visit to the market in Bordeaux on the Saturday morning, it was off to the coast. David and Fiona already had a contact for Arcachon, and an oyster lady there, while I’d fixed for us to eat and visit the kitchens at Chez Hortense, on the other side at Cap Ferret. We were looked after royally, both then and for the filming with Rick.

Looking after David and Fiona for the recce trip was fairly intensive though a treat; the real work started with the whole team for the five-day shoot three weeks later. What a great group David brought along, and you can see that in all their programmes with Rick. Chris, Martin and Pete, with Arezoo keeping us all on our toes, and David absolutely in his element.

He and Rick were a perfect team, I thought. David would set the whole scene, told Rick what he wanted, and Rick would say it. Once. That was it, pretty much. Occasionally, something would go wrong, accompanied by the odd expletive from David. So they’d take it again, but it was remarkable how Rick would be quite quiet, shy even, and then come alive in front of the camera. David knew how to get the best from Rick, and he did.

My job was to be the fixer, to liaise, advise and to drive that sodding blue 2CV. From Margaux to Cap Ferret, for example, and back. David and I would have our arguments – getting everything done on time wasn’t a piece of cake – which usually ended up with David saying ‘Thank you Gav but I think after 30 years of doing this I know what I’m fucking doing.’ The team loved it. So did I.

In the end, we never did get round to filming Rick with the lambs in the Médoc. I just couldn’t get hold of the lady to arrange it. However, when I overlooked the lamb on the day of the shoot (it was the last day of our harvest after all), David decided to leave it in. ‘One chance and you blew it, Gav.’

In the months that followed, such was his diligence with the editing, I think I spoke to David more often on the phone than I did with everyone else put together. We’d carry on chatting long after the programme was aired, and we talked a lot about his new series with Rick, which was filmed last year. ‘Rick Stein’s Secret France’ should be a cracker.

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