Learn how to cook like a restaurant chef
COOKING is something Ben Bulger has done since an early age – and something he has always been passionate about.
When he took over the reins in the kitchen at the Magdalen Chapter it was always his intention to get the diners as involved in the food as possible.
The hotel has a theatre kitchen so guests can see everything they are about to eat being cooked.
And the ethos behind his food and recipes is simple – good food, done well.
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"It's seasonal and committed to the best local produce. Ingredients from the kitchen garden are incorporated in the menu, reflecting the simplicity of great produce-driven food and the changing seasons.
"It is really all about good quality fresh ingredients and letting them speak for themselves. Chefs so often focus on the technique and tricks that they forget about what really matters in a dish.
"I have worked closely with nationally renowned chef and cookery writer Simon Hopkinson on designing the menu for The Magdalen Chapter and we both believe that sometimes it is more about what you don't do to things, than what you do."
Ben says he wants the experience at the restaurant at the hotel to be truly memorable.
"I want our guests to walk away knowing they have had excellent food and great service and that we have met all of their expectations," he said. "And that is why I was keen to get the new Cook's Club up and running."
At the sessions, which are run every month, Ben shows guests how to prepare and cook a dish, while they watch and ask questions. They then enjoy a drink in the bar while he prepares all the food they will eat for lunch.
"I love to share my passion for good food with other people – whether that is dining with them, cooking for them or teaching them," he said. "I thought that by doing a monthly event like this, I would be able to share my professional expertise with passionate amateur chefs and food lovers who perhaps want to gain an insight into tricks we use in a restaurant kitchen.
"I want to be able to give people ideas on how to use more unusual items in their day-to-day cooking," he adds. "All too often, people get stuck in a rut using the same ingredients in the same old way.
"The idea of Cook's Club is to encourage people to use these items in slightly different ways and add a new dimension to their cooking style."
And he is hoping people will leave the sessions feeling inspired and with new ideas they can try at home. That has certainly been the case so far.
"In the first one we looked at purple sprouting broccoli and kales. I showed people how to make a number of delicious kale side dishes including Spanish kale with chick peas, and sesame with ginger kale. We had around 18 people attend which was a really great size group."
And luckily Ben is not nervous cooking in front of an audience – in fact he really enjoys it.
"We have a theatre kitchen here at The Magdalen Chapter so people can always see us when we are working," he said. "I like the fact that people can get a real feel for the passion and the effort that goes into creating their dishes."
And he chooses the ingredients for the Cook's Club depending on what is in season.
"Sometimes I will demonstrate recipes that are on our menus and sometimes I will demonstrate dishes I love cooking personally for my friends and family," he says.
"I am really pleased to be offering the Cook's Club as part of what we do here at the hotel. It is going to be a regular thing taking place on the last Friday of every month.
"It's part of making this hotel one of the very best places to eat, drink and stay in Exeter."
The next Cook's Club takes place on Friday, February 22, with the following one planned for March 22. They start from 11.30am and cost £15 per person, including fruit fizz and a two-course lunch. Details: 01392 281000.