“Speak to previous winners and finalists: if anybody knows how the competition works, it’s us.”
Simon Hulstone won the Roux Scholarship in 2003; it was second time entering the competition and he took part in the finals in 2001
Simon grew up in Torquay and was inspired to follow in the footsteps of his father Roger who was executive chef at the luxury Imperial Hotel in the seaside resort. From the age of fourteen he was working alongside his father in the kitchen at weekends, accompanying him when he took chefs to train at the Ecole Lenôtre (a professional French culinary school in Paris). He enjoyed the camaraderie and fun of the kitchen and the chance to spend more time with his father.
By his early teens, Simon had already won several World Junior titles, and has been a star of the world’s chef competitions ever since. In 1994, he competed in the European Culinary Championships, and then in 1995, he won gold in the Youth Skill Olympics in France. Five years after winning the Roux Scholarship, Simon won the National Chef of the Year 2008. He has twice represented the UK in the Bocuse d’Or, the world’s most challenging and prestigious culinary contest. He was captain of the British team in the Culinary Olympics and was also captain of the English Culinary Team at the Culinary World Cup in 2010 and 2012, as well as representing the UK in competitions in South Africa, Luxembourg, Malta, Canada, South Korea and Australia as an individual competitior.
Prior to winning the Roux Scholarship, Simon’s career saw him work in the kitchens of Hanbury Manor Hotel in Hertfordshire and Ston Easton Park Hotel in Somerset. He spent some time in New Zealand working in Stamford Plaza Hotel in Auckland, while also scooping the award for New Zealand Young Chef of the Year. On his return to England worked as Head Chef at the Bailiffscourt Hotel in Sussex. In 2000, he moved to Cotswold House as Head Chef, where he attracted more attention from critics and guides, before moving onto Cheltenham’s Bacchanalian as Head chef where he honed his individual cooking style, eschewing trends and concentrating more on flavour than presentation. It was during this time he won the Roux Scholarship.
In 2005, Simon and his wife Katy returned to his home town Torquay to establish their own restaurant, using Simon’s extensive knowledge of traditional and global cuisines. The Elephant won a Michelin star after just one year and they have retained it ever since. His respect for using quality ingredients inspired him and his then business partner to establish a farm in Brixham, not far from Torquay. Covering 100 acres, they grow the fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers that supply the restaurant, with produce often used in dishes the same day it is picked. They also raise free-range pigs, turkeys, chickens, geese and sheep.
In 2015, Simon also took over the running of Burridge’s Café Tearooms in Torquay in partnership with his father, serving traditional English afternoon teas and ploughman’s lunches created and served with true Hulstone flair!
Since 2016, Simon has been a judge on the Roux Scholarship, bringing his expert knowledge and culinary talent, not to mention his extensive competition experience to the competition. To read his tips, see his judge’s page here.
Where did you do your stage?
I completed my stage in Spain at Martin Berasategui, a new three star restaurant in the Basque region. I chose here as Sat Bains had recommended it to me and to be honest I was scared of going to France! Spain was modern, evolving and the weather was good! The restaurant was also closed on different days to other restaurants in Spain so I was able to travel and complete day stages at other places as well as eat and document all the dishes I had got through.
What did you cook in the final?
In the final, my dish was veal Holstein, which was a rib of veal braised whole and then sliced and reassembled with soubise and mornay sauce, accompanied with three garnishes.
How many times did you enter?
I won it the second time I entered, the previous time I made a few silly mistakes but the winner, Steve Drake, was exceptional on the day. I was just pleased to be in such a well respected competition.
What do you remember most about the competition the year you won?
The main thing I remember was the late Victor Ceserani walking past my finished dish and giving me an approving wink. It made me feel 10 feet tall. Victor was such a gentleman and if it was good he told you, likewise if it was bad. When my name was called out I was over the moon as I thought it was for second place, but it was the first year of no second place so I was even more shocked when I realised I had won!
What advice would you give applicants?
Speak to previous winners and finalists: if anybody knows how the competition works, it’s us. I love chatting and giving advice to chefs who want to compete, I only got to where I was by asking questions and being enthusiastic.
Who are your culinary heroes?
Culinary heroes is such a difficult word. I was brought up watching my dad compete and cook so, of course, he is a major mentor but he was influenced by the same greats that influenced me. Paul Bocuse was someone that I was in awe of; his stature and demeanour was just pure rock star. I was so scared of meeting Chef Michel and Chef Albert, everything that I had seen as a young chef was leading up to the day of doing the Scholarship and my father was in awe when I was chosen to compete in my first final. Within moments of being in the kitchen Chef Michel put his arm around me and said "Don’t let me down, my money’s on you. Say hi to your Dad.” I turned to jelly after that but its what made me try harder than ever to be in the Roux Scholar family.
Tell us about your current role and restaurant?
I’ve been in current role for 16 years and counting. We have bought the restaurant from my business partner, invested in all areas of the establishment and myself and Katy are just proud to be serving loyal customers through out the year. We lead a simple life and enjoy Devon with my girls.