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Devon Life meets Ben Bulger, head chef at The Magdalen Chapter in Exeter

PUBLISHED: 15:53 21 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:23 20 February 2013

Devon Life meets Ben Bulger, head chef at The Magdalen Chapter in Exeter

Devon Life meets Ben Bulger, head chef at The Magdalen Chapter in Exeter

Ben Bulger is head chef at The Magdalen Chapter in Exeter, a contemporary hotel which opened its doors this year serving food to excite all tastes


Ben Bulger is head chef at The Magdalen Chapter in Exeter, a contemporary hotel which opened its doors this year serving food to excite all tastes

What is your earliest food memory?

Every Sunday, our whole family would enjoy a weekly feast with lots of pigeon, grouse, hams and game. I used to love tomatoes straight out of my grandmas greenhouse a taste I still strive to source to this day.

What were the flavours of your childhood? Sausages and ketchup, my mums chicken soup and shepherds pie and desserts like Angel Delight used to rock my world.

How did you get into cooking? Both my uncles owned hotels in Cornwall so as a lad, I spent many of my summers in the hotel environment. I landed a job at The Castle Hotel in Taunton, working under Phil Vickery where my love of the industry blossomed.

What made you decide to become a chef? I used to cook a lot for family so kitchens felt a very natural environment for me. When I worked for Phil Vickery, cooking got really exciting and I quickly fell in love with it.

What was your first experience of cooking professionally? Working for my uncle at The Pendower Beach Hotel, frying scampi and chips aged 13.

How did your career progress? Working a ski season, I met a great chef who helped propel me into the London restaurant scene, then worked in the Cotswolds and more recently Riverford.

What sort of foods and flavours inspire you? Good produce inspires me to create a dish. From my time at Riverford, I learnt how to make vegetables the star of the show. Quince is a favourite ingredient and autumn gives you great colours in cooking beetroot red, squash orange and rich sauces.

What are your food hates?

Tofu and bean curd.

Which ingredient could you not manage without? Salt.

How important is sourcing for you?

Very, we are spoilt for choice in Devon where suppliers deliver fish from boat to plate within a day. We always buy ethically and responsibly.

Who are your preferred suppliers?

Pipers Farm Butchers on Magdalen Road who have a farm on Dartmoor, Flying Fish in Looe for day boat fish, Richards in Topsham for great vegetables and beef from Turtons in Cullompton.

Describe the best meal you ever had. I enjoyed the best confit duck leg and gratin potatoes in a Lockkeepers House in the Canal dMidi in France eating with plastic cutlery sat on plastic garden furniture.

Who inspires you in the cooking world? Chapter Hotels Executive Chef Simon Hopkinson and my friend and chef Graham Grafton.

Who would you most like to have round for a dinner party? Stephen Fry, Simon Hopkinson and my friend, mentor and author Jane Baxter. n

The Magdalen Chapter Magdalen Street Exeter EX2 4HY 01392 281 000 themagdalenchapter.com


Meet the chef


Ben Bulger is head chef at The Magdalen Chapter in Exeter, a contemporary hotel which opened its doors this year serving food to excite all tastes


What is your earliest food memory?
Every Sunday, our whole family would enjoy a weekly feast with lots of pigeon, grouse, hams and game. I used to love tomatoes straight out of my grandmas greenhouse a taste I still strive to source to this day.

What were the flavours of your childhood?
Sausages and ketchup, my mums chicken soup and shepherds pie and desserts like Angel Delight used to rock my world.

How did you get into cooking?
Both my uncles owned hotels in Cornwall so as a lad, I spent many of my summers in the hotel environment. I landed a job at The Castle Hotel in Taunton, working under Phil Vickery where my love of the industry blossomed.

What made you decide to become a chef?
I used to cook a lot for family so kitchens felt a very natural environment for me. When I worked for Phil Vickery, cooking got really exciting and I quickly fell in love with it.

What was your first experience of cooking professionally?
Working for my uncle at The Pendower Beach Hotel, frying scampi and chips aged 13.

How did your career progress?
Working a ski season, I met a great chef who helped propel me into the London restaurant scene, then worked in the Cotswolds and more recently Riverford.

What sort of foods and flavours inspire you?
Good produce inspires me to create a dish. From my time at Riverford, I learnt how to make vegetables the star of the show. Quince is a favourite ingredient and autumn gives you great colours in cooking beetroot red, squash orange and rich sauces.

What are your food hates?
Tofu and bean curd.

Which ingredient could you not manage without?
Salt.

How important is sourcing for you?
Very, we are spoilt for choice in Devon where suppliers deliver fish from boat to plate within a day. We always buy ethically and responsibly.

Who are your preferred suppliers?
Pipers Farm Butchers on Magdalen Road who have a farm on Dartmoor, Flying Fish in Looe for day boat fish, Richards in Topsham for great vegetables and beef from Turtons in Cullompton.

Describe the best meal you ever had.
I enjoyed the best confit duck leg and gratin potatoes in a Lockkeepers House in the Canal dMidi in France eating with plastic cutlery sat on plastic garden furniture.

Who inspires you in the cooking world?
Chapter Hotels Executive Chef Simon Hopkinson and my friend and chef Graham Grafton.

Who would you most like to have round for a dinner party?
Stephen Fry, Simon Hopkinson and my friend, mentor and author Jane Baxter.

The Magdalen Chapter Magdalen Street Exeter EX2 4HY 01392 281 000 themagdalenchapter.com

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