Taste Buds speaks to David Ward of the Church House Inn in Stokeinteignhead
David Ward is Head Chef at the Church House Inn, a 13th-century village pub in the heart of Stokeinteignhead. Originally built by the church to offer food and rest to weary travellers, the pub now offers delicious local produce on its menus.
How did you first discover your love of cooking and when did you decide you wanted to be a chef?
I grew up in South Wales where my dad got me a job at a local hotel as a dish washer and kitchen porter. From the moment I walked in the kitchen door I was hooked. All thoughts of playing centre forward for Liverpool FC went out the window and I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Can you tell us about your background and how you came to be working at the Church House Inn?
After working my way up the hierarchy of the kitchen, I went to day-release at college. I took several different jobs, each time learning as much as I could and then moved on. After a stint in London I moved back to South Wales and met my wife, Sarah. We ended up in this area, with me working at The Church House Inn about four years ago. After two years there was a change of ownership and I decided to move on; I was running a bistro in Shaldon, when I found out that Anthony and Nicky were buying The Church House Inn. I knew of their past work and luckily they knew of mine and the chance to work together seemed to good too miss.
What is it about Devon, and Stokeinteignhead in particular, that makes you want to work here?
Stokeinteignhead is a beautiful village and the locals are very supportive. As for Devon, it is the larder of England and a chef’s paradise.
How would you describe your approach to food and cooking?
With ingredients it’s best to let nature get on with it. With cooking it is the same - don’t mess about with the flavours too much.
The style of food served at the Church House Inn is described as traditional with a twist. Can you explain this?
We are first and foremost a pub, so our menu has pub classics on it. For example, on the specials board today we have Village Venison but the twist is the sauce: mushrooms, smoked bacon and summer black truffles.
What are your favourite locally sourced ingredients and why?
I love the stuff that comes to the kitchen door. The local fishermen know where to come with their catch and there are a couple of guys in the village who keep us well supplied with seasonal game.
What local suppliers in particular do you work with and why?
Our vegetables are from Chalices of Totnes. We only buy South West meat and at the moment we’re organising a Stokeinteignhead farmer to supply it. GB fisheries supply us with some beautiful Brixham landed fish.
Aside from the Church House Inn, where do you most like to eat out locally and why?
My wife’s cooking wins hands down, but if she insists that we eat out then we go somewhere where the food is totally different from what I’m cooking at work. The Eastern Eye in Newton Abbot is always good for Indian food and for Chinese, Yum Sing in Torquay is great. For Italian, Gino the chef at Nino’s in Wellswood never lets us down.
What is your favourite meal?
A roast dinner, at home, cooked by Sarah and enjoyed with my son Ayrton.
What would you say is your signature dish?
The Church House Inn’s steak and kidney suet pudding has become a big hit. The pub always had a good suet pudding on the menu, but I feel we have taken it to another level now and people come from miles away just for this dish.
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… just like the food we write about, Taste Buds is lovingly made using the finest local ingredients!
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The SepOct issue of Taste Buds is out now