The pretty stone-wall property for sale outside Briançon in the French Alps is one of the many working ski chalets available in the region offering both a prime location and luxury accommodation – but it holds a secret that only a few of its high profile guests know.
Despite offering the usual all-wooden interiors, views over the nearby peaks, a basement play area and a spa, what makes the Chez Bear chalet different is its owner, Matthew Beckett, whose extraordinary life has led him to this snowy corner of south eastern France.
Matthew spent a decade cooking for and looking after a long list of affluent clients including oil-rich sheikhs, rock stars, sporting heroes and TV personalities – but in 2001 he and wife and business partner Helen decided to get into ski chalets.
"I was very lucky to get planning permission to renovate what was originally a 17th century farmhouse – but I had the money to do it up from the profits we earned buying, running and then selling a pub in Bottlesford, Wiltshire" says Matthew.
"And the contacts I had from my previous life as a steward – and later chef – to the world's rich and famous meant I had a ready database of high profile people to invite to the chalet."
"We then spent two years doing the farmhouse up into a chalet and opened for business in 2003."
Matthew, who also owns a 500-year-old cottage in the Wiltshire countryside, started out as a steward aboard the private jets of wealthy Middle East businessmen including members of the Saudi royal family, but went on to become a personal chef including, eventually, working for rock legend Sting and his wife Trudy Styler. He was at their beck and call whenever the couple were at their Wiltshire home, which is a few miles south of Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain.
"One day they phoned up and said Guy Ritchie and Madonna were coming around for lunch. They were about to set off on their honeymoon after the wedding at Skibo Castle in Scotland and decided to drop in to say hello," says Matthew. "It was amazing – all four of them ended up singing at the table while I was preparing the food."
Other high-profile celebrities that Matthew has worked for include TV presenter Noel Edmonds, Formula One champion Nigel Mansell and actor Barry Humphries – and recent high profile guests at Chez Bear have included one of the Maktoums, the ruling family of Dubai, plus a member of the UK royal family – although Matthew is coy about which one.
"Whoever buys this chalet business off me will inherit an enviable contacts book as well as the property," says Matthew.
Chez Bear is on the market for €1.2 million – for more information contact Matthew and Helen on +33 4 92 21 11 70 or visit their website.