Simon Hulstone

Simon Hulstone

Simon Hulstone

After the stage, Simon and his wife moved to Devon to establish their own restaurant, The Elephant. In 2004, it won a Michelin star which the couple (his wife Katy runs front of house) have retained ever since. ‘It was a bolt out of the blue really. When we reached Torquay and got our Michelin star, really I thought it was the last place in the world that you would get one.

‘What it has done is to make me respect the ingredients a lot more,' he continues. 'It has made me analyse what I was doing and how I was doing it. It has really matured me, sometimes it has pulled me back and sometimes it has pushed me forward. More than anything it has made me listen to gut instincts rather than doing something to impress people. I’m not cooking to impress but to make my customers happy.’

This new respect for ingredients, in part, motivated Simon and his business partner to create their own dedicated farm in south Devon. With almost 100 acres now in operation, they raise free-range pigs, turkeys, chickens, geese and sheep, along with growing the fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers that supply the restaurant. ‘It has really woken us up to the quality of ingredients and to seasonality and to utilising products at their best natural state, as early as possible. We will get everything picked in the morning, we’ll have it prepared and hopefully we’ll sell it that evening. It has given me a love for the quality of ingredients, for how we grow then and how we look after them. When I see the chefs overcooking a vegetable now it is so annoying because we have grown that from scratch, we have been there on the journey with it and we want it really respected.’

Simon's dishes are often adorned with a colourful range of delicate plants and flowers, but he is keen to stress that ‘everything is on the plate for a reason’.

Simon has gone from a child who wouldn’t eat ketchup because it contained a vegetable to a Michelin-starred chef with one of the best kitchen gardens in Britain. He has achieved amazing success at the highest levels of international competitive cooking and is now transforming Torquay into a top culinary destination. Although his days as an event competitor are now over, he’s still pushing forward. 'Now we’re only competing against ourselves, because we’re striving to be better. Every dish that goes out has to be better than the last one you send.’ We’re excited to see where that leads.

Three things you need to know

In 2015, Simon also took over the running of Burridge’s Café Tearooms in partnership with his father, serving beautifully executed, traditional English afternoon teas and ploughman’s lunches.

Alongside the many livestock at the farm, Simon keeps alpacas, mainly for guard duties.

Simon's three children are all named after unusual herbs – Tansy, Cicely and Betony.