Unlike at most French châteaux, there is not a drop of wine to be had at Château de Montjoie. Instead, meals at this renovated 16th-century property in the scenic Languedoc region are washed down with fresh fruit juices and local mineral waters, all prepared by a team overseen by Mark Kimchi as part of Evelyn’s Mark’s Raw Food Autumn Retreats (£6,785 per person; August 19-27, September 5-13, September 21-29, October 2-11, and now booking for 2018).
After seeking a solution to his mother Evelyn’s cancer diagnosis, Kimchi left his job as an operations manager at the London School of Economics and turned his culinary explorations into a new career as a vegan lifestyle guru. “Once people understand what happens inside their bodies when they eat certain foods, they no longer want to eat them,” Kimchi says.
Guests at Evelyn’s Mark – located two and a half hours from Marseilles, two hours from Montpellier and 80 minutes from Nîmes’ Garons Airport – will not only eat a personalised raw vegan diet during their nine-day retreat, but also take part in workshops teaching them how to set up a raw food kitchen chez vous, from buffet breakfasts of juices, smoothies, fruit salads, crêpes, ice cream and yoghurt made with fresh coconuts to lunches that might include a cream of mushroom soup with cashew nuts, little gem enchiladas stuffed with sundried tomato “meat”, or a garlic and basil linguine made of finely julienned courgette tossed in a pine nut pesto. For dessert, expect the likes of walnut, date and cinnamon Swiss roll with carob fudge sauce. “I can’t live without dates,” Kimchi declares.
As for the château’s eight designer rooms, Kimchi even goes so far as handmaking the bathroom products to ensure they are chemical free, using essential oils and plant waxes. He’s particularly proud of his lip balm, shampoo and fluoride-free toothpaste.
The days will all begin with meditation, led by Kimchi and an on-site yogi, and there will also be yoga sessions, walks around Château de Montjoie’s magnificent five-acre estate, swims in the heated pool and games of tennis, while post-breakfast holistic treatments will include reflexology, facial reflexology, reiki, meta therapy and full-body massages to aid blood and lymph flow. Kimchi will also be available for one-on-one discussions to consider individual goals, needs and health issues.
“I give guests the tools to begin their journey,” he says. “For nine days I hold their hands for what is a big leap, and if they go off the path when they leave, I’m always there to help.”