Although fêted chef Simon Hulstone started out in a hotel kitchen in Torquay at the tender age of 14, he is certainly no stay-at-home. During his illustrious career, Simon Hulstone has spent a year working in New Zealand, won culinary competitions all around the world, trained in the Basque Country and worked in prestigious restaurants all over the south of England. However, when he decided to set up his own restaurant, the Michelin-starred Elephant, he returned to Torquay, and despite his international experience, his view is that ‘Devon takes some beating’. We caught up with him to find out why.
‘I’ve been lucky enough to work in some fantastic locations around the world, but when it comes to fresh, seasonal produce, Devon takes some beating. We have a relatively mild climate, which means we can grow a wide range of vegetables and fruit, and there’s an abundance of wild garlic and elderflowers to forage during the warmer months. The green landscape gives our cattle plenty to graze upon, resulting in great quality and high-welfare meat. Being on the coast obviously has its advantages too, and we source the majority of our seafood from Brixham – a fantastic fish market to have on our doorstep.’
‘At The Elephant, our goal is to serve well-presented dishes that celebrate the very best of what the local area has to offer. We work with a small number of fantastic local suppliers who we’ve known for many years. It’s thanks to their commitment and passion for quality that we are able to maintain the high standards that our diners expect. In recent years it’s been great to see more restaurants arrive in the area and it really does feel that Torbay’s dining scene has been given a new lease of life. The more good restaurants we have, the more those interested in dining out will be drawn to visit us.’
‘There are many fantastic restaurants, pubs and cafés in which to enjoy Devon’s fantastic produce. Five Devon pubs have been honoured with national awards, and restaurants like Gidleigh Park, The Seahorse and The Elephant have excellent reputations nationally. I don’t often eat out, but when I do, my favourite places include The Cornish Arms, Jack in the Green and Ode – they all use the finest local ingredients to produce great tasting food in beautiful surroundings.
Devon’s bountiful larder is something to celebrate, and it’s fantastic to have so many festivals throughout the year doing just that. The Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink, Dartmouth Food Festival and Fishstock showcase Devon’s great produce and provide an entertaining day out for all the family.’