‘Fifteen’ chef takes over at the White Hart

Our new White Hart restaurant chef has had it with conformity, crap service and egos. Eamon Fullalove, who comes from Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, explains how our mouth-watering new menu challenges ‘the usual convention that all food begins with the chef’s mind’.

It is this attitude that got him a job at Fifteen in London. ‘I don’t care how famous you are,’ he said to Jamie Oliver. ‘If I were you, I would hire people who aren’t impressed by fame.’

To which Jamie replied, ‘Right, you’re my head chef’.

Eamon grasped the opportunity, spending three years transforming the lives of young people who had previously been homeless, were misusing drug and alcohol or were just unemployed. They learnt how to be chefs.

Eamon, right, with Jon Perkin of Old Parsonage Farm

Eamon, right, with Jon Perkin of Old Parsonage Farm (based on the Dartington Hall estate) 

This quality of being unfazed by fame was perhaps the result of being surrounded by it as a child. His mother Patricia ran the celebrated garden restaurant at Derry and Toms, in High Street Kensington, where A-listers from Mick Jagger to Madonna partied among real flamingos in a 1930s rooftop garden.

He was drawn to Fifteen after having done a deep dive following jobs such as working as a chef in traditional French kitchens all over London, Sydney and Hong Kong to work out what good life might look like for him. ‘I looked under the rug, at all the mess under there, and had a lightbulb moment. My whole life had been – “like me, like me”. I had a real moment then when I realised I wanted to do something for other people, those who had a bad start – to help them find their skills and their passion.’

‘Fifteen taught me that it’s really common for people to work out vicariously what others need,’ said Eamon. ‘We thought the young people in our kitchens would want to go on and be head chefs at other kitchens, when in fact what they wanted was a house, or they wanted the domestic violence they were witnessing at home to stop, or to get hold of better drugs…We had never actually asked the group what they wanted out of the project.’

 

Eamon Fullalove in the White Hart kitchen

Eamon in the White Hart kitchen

Now, at The White Hart in Dartington Hall, his disinterest in celebrity continues: ‘My dream is that no one knows who the White Hart head chef is. Don’t put a name above the door, that’s not what Dartington needs.

‘I think The White Hart has been ravaged by chef’s egos. We want it to be here in 20 years’ time giving people what they want – that is, good and honest food that is an extension of their experience of the gardens or an estate walk. The customer experience should be so seamless that it doesn’t distract from the gem that this place is. I want it to be that whoever comes after me is given a brief rather than a free rein, so that they fit in with that.

The way he’s doing this is by taking local sourcing to its logical conclusion on an estate that is home to 21 land based enterprises. ‘The usual convention is that all food begins with the chef’s mind. We’re doing it the other way round. We’re looking at what is growing now out there on the estate and working way more in harmony with the growers and customers. So rather than buying asparagus in, in December, we should let people know that there is kale here that is so incredible that it will blow your mind.’

When Eamon started at The White Hart in 2018 he said: ‘The first thing I did when I started was wash dishes for a week. I cooked on every shift. I went out and brought some good quality smart uniform. At the beginning there was much resistance. The old culture put up a pretty good fight.

‘I found that people were obsessed with not learning everything, seemingly wanting everything done for them. I want them to learn butchery for example. Conformity is the death of passion and creativity. Many waiters in the UK are on route to become dancer or an actor. It gets me so upset when you have crap service with the attitude that ‘this is beneath me’ when it’s actually a really honourable profession – to be in service to others.

‘Now I feel like we’re a team at The White Hart – and that we won’t fail if I stop. The other day I saw five chefs walk across the courtyard… They looked so proud.’

On The White Hart’s new Devon O’ Clock feasting menu, you’ll find goat stew from Dartington Dairy, venison from Dartington Deer Park or mushrooms from Grocycle, grown in coffee grounds by the way.

Devon O’ Clock feasting menu: Spring

you – chose a main course such as spring lamb or kid
we – whip up a selection of sides, from macaroni cheese to outrageous salads

More about The White Hart ⇒

8 thoughts on “‘Fifteen’ chef takes over at the White Hart

  1. Fantastic news about new chef… great article… now hoping for a friendlier staff team and some child friendly snacks behind bar. Arrived on a Sunday at 3.05 for a drink and hungry kids. Grumpy staff could only offer us some dried up bread and butter, nuts or a vast bag of chilli lentil chips.

  2. I’ve just checked the Main even feasting menu but there isn’t any vegan dessert. I am organising vegan meet up on a monthly basis and we love trying new places. Is this something that will change in the future?

  3. We have eaten with you recently and the food was very good, the service was mediocre ( dishes were forgotten, wine list unknown to staff ) and the ambiance distracted from what was good. I hope that more thought is given to how you can make the White Heart space work better to compliment both the ethos and the food and drink offer?

  4. Really hope it all works this time. We keep trying every new regime at the White Hart and have been uniformly disappointed by both cooking and service. Our last experience was at the end of 2018 and was pretty dire. We’ll give you one more chance. We really want this to succeed. We’re very long tern Dartington fans as we’e been coming to events here for over fifty years.

    1. do come and give us a try. please come with new eyes and see what we have done to make the experience a good one.

  5. Interesting article.
    Sourcing local variety, quality, choice.
    Straightforward and easy to understand menu.
    Well designed web page for Android, flowed well. I feel confidence returning.
    I’m eager to visit again after a short break.
    and with friends.

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