Damien Dupuis, Head Chef at the Inn at Fossebridge
PUBLISHED: 16:03 21 January 2010 | UPDATED: 08:57 21 February 2013
Head chef at the Inn at Fossebridge, Damien Dupuis is taking his new responsibilities very seriously indeed.
Damien Dupuis has approached his first head chef's role with all the seriousness one would expect from a young Frenchman who has had a passion for food since the age of seven.
The 34-year-old from Toulouse was recently appointed head chef at the Inn at Fossebridge and although he is clearly confident about his own talent, he isn't taking anything for granted.
"Yes, I'm a bit anxious," admits Damien, who has succeeded fellow Frenchman Laurent Guillery in the kitchen of this 300-year-old inn. "I have a lot more responsibilities now and I'm taking it very seriously."
The Inn at Fossebridge is immersed in three centuries of history, both as a coaching inn on the Fosse Way and as a hostelry named after wealthy landowner Lord Chedworth.
When the inn first opened it was known as Lord Chedworth's Arms, a name recalled in the splendid old bar that still exists today. The name was changed to The Fossebridge Inn in the early 19th century.
Located an hour from Stratford-upon-Avon and a short drive from Cheltenham, the pub sits between Cirencester and Northleach, within a dip on the A429.
Owner Robert Jenkins and his daughter Liz have refurbished the pub in keeping with the Georgian style. Each of the pub's comfortable bedrooms is named after a town or village in the Cotswolds and overnight guests can choose between doors marked Bibury, Cirencester, Tetbury, Fossebridge, Burford, Northleach, Stow-on-the-Wold and Moreton-in-Marsh.
Damien is working closely with Liz, herself a graduate of the prestigious Leith's cookery school in London. Between them, they will be developing menus with new dishes that reflect both the pub's traditional English heritage and also the new chef's own background.
"Our greatest wish is to achieve recognition for the superb food created by our team," says Liz. "We are renowned as a major Cotswolds destination, and we are seeking greater acceptance that our food is worth the trip alone."
Like most French chefs, Damien comes from a food-loving family. He learnt to cook by watching his grandmother and parents, as did his brother who is now a head chef in a restaurant in France.
They studied food for six years at a cookery school in France and both achieved distinctions in their craft. While his brother stayed in France, Damien moved to England to improve his English and broaden his experience.
Since then he has worked in a variety of restaurants, from Fishworks in Christchurch, Dorset, to Calcot Manor, the Halfway Inn and the Bibury Court Hotel in the Cotswolds.
Damien has inherited a popular menu from his predecessor, which includes dishes such as pan-fried halibut with spiced aubergine caviar and mussel cream and roasted best end of Cotswold lamb with a herb crust, fondant potatoes, fine beans wrapped in bacon, garlic and rosemary jus.
A chef who name-checks the Michelin-starred French chef Paul Bocuse and Gordon Ramsay among his food heroes, he says he will gradually change the menu at The Inn at Fossebridge, but not in a radical way.
"This is my first time as a head chef and I have a few ideas about changing the menu but it's going to take a time as I have a very young team with me.
"I need to work with them for a while and once things have settled down we'll be doing some exciting things.
"Of course, there will be a few French dishes on the menu because I don't want to lose my roots, but the menu will stay pretty much as it is for a while and then it will change step by step.
"I will keep a few traditional pub dishes and also introduce some restaurant-style dishes but we don't want to be seen as a gastropub, just a traditional inn that does good food.
"The Inn at Fossebridge is a great destination for food and accommodation and becoming head chef really is a passionate Frenchman's dream come true".
The Inn at Fossebridge, near Cheltenham. Tel: 01285 720721 www.fossebridgeinn.co.uk