Dominic Chapman

Dominic Chapman

Dominic Chapman

Dominic Chapman is a fourth-generation chef – the highly regarded Castle Hotel in Taunton has been in his family for over 60 years. Once a head chef for Heston Blumenthal, Dominic Chapman has a less molecular style than his former mentor, instead serving up beautifully prepared, comforting dishes made with quality local ingredients.

Dominic Chapman’s passion for food is in the blood: his family has owned and run the highly acclaimed Castle Hotel in Taunton for over 60 years. His father, an author as well as a chef, was a proponent of classic, staple dishes on menus – before it was trendy to do so – and Dominic Chapman grew up with a lively interest in food.

Instead of university, Dominic Chapman chose to dedicate five years to travelling, paying his way with kitchen jobs in Greece, the US, Mexico, New Zealand and Australia. Some sage career advice from a chef in the latter sent him packing back to England to undertake proper culinary training, and from here his professional career began.

Dominic Chapman worked with Heston Blumenthal for four years, initially serving as chef de partie at the three-Michelin-starred Fat Duck – back then serving slightly simpler dishes, such as steak and lemon tart – in 2002. After leaving to work at the iconic Kensington Place bistro under Rowley Leigh in 2004, Dominic Chapman was later offered the position of head chef at Blumenthal’s other Bray-based venture, the newly opened The Hinds Head. His early career clearly proved formative in the chef’s own approach, and in an interview with Foodepedia Dominic Chapman identified his cooking style as “sitting between Rowley’s simple, gutsy, comforting food and Heston’s meticulous finesse”.

In 2007, Chapman became head chef at The Royal Oak, earning Michael Parkinson’s pub and restaurant a Michelin star, three AA rosettes and a 6/10 rating in the Good Food Guide during a seven-year spell. He stayed here until, eventually, craving the greater challenge of a place of his own, he took over The Beehive in White Waltham.

Eschewing the term gastropub – “it’s died a bit of a death now” – Dominic Chapman views The Beehive as a pub with a restaurant. His vision is for The Beehive to become a place known for good atmosphere and great food, without scaring off the venue’s regular customers – “I’m taking over quite a successful business, the previous owners were here for 15 years!” For the chef, opening his own restaurant proved a learning curve, but it was a challenge that he relished.

Despite his past working in multi-Michelin-starred gastronomy he does not shy away from including unpretentious comfort foods on his menus. However, these dishes – ham hock macaroni cheese, or Cambridge burnt cream with sable biscuits – raise even traditional foods to rarefied heights. He achieves this through a fierce attention to detail (techniques derived from his time in fine dining) and scrupulously selected ingredients.

Seasonality and quality are key to Dominic Chapman when it comes to sourcing his ingredients. He has an arsenal of trusted suppliers, accrued over his many years of working in the industry, and will often alter his seasonal menus from day to day according to their recommendations to ensure his customers are getting the very best ingredients. Fish is a particular love of the chef – a legacy, perhaps, from his Kensington Palace days – and since taking over The Beehive Dominic Chapman has expanded the menu’s seafood repertoire. When in season, expect Crab linguine with chilli and mint or Halibut on cockle risotto along with classics such as generous bowls of moules frites.

As a self-confessed traveller at heart Dominic Chapman has a love of world cuisine, with Indian food holding particular significance. Every year the chef travels to India and spends two weeks cooking in the kitchen of an existing restaurant, and, from experiencing the sheer number of different dishes an Indian restaurant will traditionally have to cook, he has huge admiration for the Indian chefs he works under. Dominic Chapman is particularly interested in Indian food in the context of British culture – especially given that there are only a handful of Michelin starred Indian restaurants in Britain despite it being so deeply ingrained in our culture. In light of this discrepancy he regularly gives talks and masterclasses to Indian chefs, providing advice on the food industry on a practical level, including advice on cooking at a Michelin-star level.

As a chef Dominic Chapman is a people-pleaser, not an egotist. He does not want to shock his customers with avant-garde molecular creations. He rather surprises them with dishes they thought couldn’t taste so deliciously fresh. His cooking philosophy – were he the sort of person to have one – is simple: “It’s all got to be delicious, it’s all got to have that little love and passion in each and every dish, and that’s what’s got to shine through.”