This November, Ben Jupp, Head Chef at the Farm Shop & Café, celebrates his 10-year anniversary working at Cowdray. He talks about how far the Farm Shop and Café has come since he joined.
When did you start taking an interest in food?
When I left school, I originally wanted to be a fireman but was subsequently inspired to become a chef after seeing the training kitchens at the South Downs College. Consequently, I enrolled for a three-year course at the college and during this time I carried out work experience in different venues, including a stint as a chef at Buckingham Palace.
What and who inspired you to be a chef?
I have always found the chef and restauranteur Marcus Wareing inspirational. His mother was a great cook, and he took her recipes and turned them into something amazing. My mother also inspired me to love cooking – I now show her different slants on her recipes, which she enjoys.
What first attracted you to work at Cowdray and what has been your most memorable moment while you have been working here?
Prior to starting at Cowdray, I was working at The Kennels at Goodwood. Through connections in the food world, I was approached to come to Cowdray as the second chef, and I joined the team in November 2010. From the moment I was offered the role I saw massive potential in the business. Soon after joining, we relaunched the Cowdray Café, and five years later I became Head Chef. The business has grown phenomenally over the last decade – for example only five years ago we didn’t sell cakes, and now the pastry kitchen is incredibly busy with the team producing a range of award-winning pies, quiches, cakes and cookies.
There are many memorable moments but for me a highlight was cooking a Ten Course Taster Dinner in June 2019 to celebrate the Farm Shop’s 10-year anniversary. Courses included a Smokey barbecued Cowdray venison and langoustine and lamb noisette with almond butter.
What is your favourite dish that you like to cook and is it the same as your favourite meal? What style of cuisine do you like best?
I love pizza. My favourite is the Napoli Pizza which has anchovies and capers on it. This proved very popular over the summer months with customers enjoying a range of authentic wood fired Cowdray pizza from the pizza van, including the Napoli. My favourite style of cuisine is Italian.
What are you most looking forward to about Christmas?
I love spending time with my family and although we may not be able to have a big family Christmas gathering this year, Lizzie, my fiancée who is the Deputy Manager at the Cowdray Farm Shop Café, and myself will try and see as many parts of our family individually in the run up to Christmas. I also love being with my daughter Grace, who’s 11.
Do you enjoy cooking Christmas dinner, and what is your favourite thing on the plate?
I particularly enjoy cooking Christmas dinner with a glass of champagne in my hand! My favourite part has to be the pigs in blankets.
How would you like to expand the Cowdray food brand? And do you enjoy experimenting with new ideas for food?
I would love to create a bar in the courtyard by the Café serving people good wines alongside sparkling wines, particularly from local vineyards such as Upperton and Nyetimber and beer from a barrel. In summer when people come for the polo, they can sit in the sunshine enjoying a drink before visiting the Café for a delicious meal.
I love experimenting with different recipes, but I do not have as much time as I’d like to do this. However, recently I devised a spiced roast pumpkin with lentil and spinach daal, toasted almonds, mango chutney and a coconut and almond dressing dish. I had it in my head for a while and when I put it together, I received very positive feedback. It has proved popular on the Cowdray Café menu.
When I need inspiration, I spend time in the Farm Shop talking to the butchers and I also get ideas for vegetarian dishes from the cheeses available from the Deli.
If you could choose one food product available from the Farm Shop, what would it be?
Baron Bigod Brie.
What are the three most important things to have in a larder?
I would say good quality olive oil, decent salt – I always go for Maldon Sea Salt – and a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wine.
What is your favourite seasonal ingredient?
I love anything that is grown wild for example wild mushrooms, cob nuts and sweet chestnuts. Wild venison also has a real flavour.
Do you have a particularly special place on the Estate?
I love the Walled Garden by the Ruins; the garden is so beautiful and has a secret feel.
Do you prefer mountains or beach? And what is your favourite place that you have been on holiday?
Beach. I adore body boarding at Watergate Bay on the north Cornwall coast with my daughter Grace.
What is number one on your Bucket List?
I’d like to tour around Italy in a campervan looking at lots of Italian cooking styles and visiting vineyards.
And finally, what can’t you live without?
I can’t live without my fiancée Lizzie and my daughter Grace.Back to News