Simon Hulstone

Published in Food and Travel Magazine May 2012 Issue number 146:

Simon Hulstone in Food and Travel

From a Roux Scholarship to captaincy of the English and British Culinary teams, there are few accolades that the head chef of Torquay’s Michelin-starred The Elephant hasn’t picked up. He talks to Qin Xie

My father was executive chef at the Imperial Hotel in Torquay and I started working in his kitchens when I was just 14. I always liked being among chefs – I loved the camaraderie. When he was at Forte, I would join him when he took chefs to Ecole Lenotre to train. I guess if I didn’t become a chef then I would probably have gone into the army.

When I was a kid, I was a very fussy eater so we didn’t really go anywhere on holiday except maybe Pontins and Bournemouth. Nowadays, we go to St Mawes in Cornwall for holidays as it’s too expensive to fly anywhere with the kids. My girls, Tansy and Cicely (and hopefully our new arrival Betony) love the adventure, the sea and the rocks down there.

I’m addicted to looking for morels growing on the woodchips in car parks – they are the best places to find them. I also take the kids up to Haldon Woods, near Dartmoor, and Berry Pomeroy to forage for ceps. When it rains, I’m always excited about the mushrooms that will grow afterwards. Phil supplies our mushrooms and taught us all about picking them in the wild.

Ode in Shaldon is one of my favourite restaurants. It’s focused on organic and biodynamic food ( Ode is the restaurant’s postcode but it’s also a tribute to true food. The Hare & Hounds, in Kingskerswell, ( do an award-winning carvery and great ales. I like visiting Nathan Outlaw ( and Paul Ainsworth ( too.

The best ever fish and chip place will be my own. I am very picky about my fish and chips; I hate it when the fish comes with skin on. We almost bought a fish and chip shop a while ago so that’s definitely still on the cards. In the meantime, I go to Chandler’s Chippy in Torquay as it’s the least pretentious. I just have fish and chips; no fancy stuff – it is a chippie.

All the boys in the kitchen save up their tips and every four months we do a little tour of restaurants. Our last trip was to Copenhagen and the beef tartare with wood sorrel at Noma ( was amazing. I really enjoyed Geranium (, Nimb ( and Geist (

We’ve dined at Le Meurice in Paris on a few occasions ( as well as Pierre Gagnaire (pierre-gagnaire. com). Le Meurice is about doing modern takes on classics, whereas Gagnaire is about pushing boundaries; he’s not afraid to experiment with unusual flavour combinations. Tasting menus give good insights into what restaurants are doing.

Scooters are what you’d call my hobby. I got into that because I liked mod music. I am a member of the South Devon Showmen scooter club; it’s where I never talk about food. I own six scooters – I even have a Michelin one.

On food and relationships

Published on The Prodigal Guide on 28th November 2011:

Food writing, it’s a complex game.

For the aspiring, and even established writers, who are desperately trying to charm editors into a commission, it’s not only hard work but also extremely competitive. Equally, though, the food circle is very small and winds tighter and tighter the closer you come to the fore. Everyone seems to know everyone else in this industry and, as a consequence, everyone else’s business too.

I often wondered what one might read on the rags of a Gossip Girl equivalent of this little incestuous crowd. Judging by what one hears on the grapevine, it’s detrimentally scandalous. Thankfully, no such column has been penned. Yet.

Of course that is not to say the subtleties of relationships haven’t escaped into writings here and there. Indeed, on these very pages and elsewhere, Douglas Blyde wrote of our fleeting encounter during the summer months. But like the chilled champagne served during that lukewarm season, the bubbles dissolved as they surfaced and quickly fizzled out. And at the end of it, a teased palate was left unsatisfied – because when two hungry gourmets collided, the explosion was gastronomical.

The intricacies of navigating a post-love battlefield are always delicate, but it’s even more so when all paths in the small space afforded eventually lead to heart-mines. Faced with the omnipresence of these reminders, I got thinking about food and relationships.

While my own recent forays into this connection has been a romantic one, it isn’t the rule across the board. Certainly, it wasn’t why I got into food in the first place – my love of eating did that.

For chefs in particular, the link has been mostly inter-generational and apparently patriarchally skewed. Nigel Slater got into food because he wanted to please his father; Allegra McEvedy started cheffing following the advice of her father; and Simon Hulstone probably wouldn’t have competed in the Bocuse d’Or if it wasn’t for the competitive streak instilled in him by his father, who at one time was also a competition chef.

And there are many chefs with fathers in the industry like Dominic Chapman, Henry Harris and Alain Roux; the list goes on.

Then there’s all the ways that our relationships in food have influenced our cooking style. There’s Cass Titcomb of Canteen who was always brought up on the best of British and that’s filtered through to the menu served across their five venues in London. Or Jun Tanaka of Pearl, a Japanese chef known for his French style, who started by working through all of his father’s top rated restaurants, all of which were French.

And that’s just about chefs. What about academics? Politicians? Artists?

It seems that food and relationships is a subject so fertile that a bare few hundred words would not do it justice. So while the seed of this idea is sown here, I will ruminate over what grows from it in the columns which will faithfully follow.