My Suffolk - Stephen David
Stephen David is Chef-Director of Bespoke Events and Co-Founder of the Woodbridge Shuck shellfish festival which takes place from October 8 to 11
Where were you born and how did you come to live in Suffolk?
While I consider myself a Suffolk boy, I am Scottish by birth, moving down as a toddler from Edinburgh. I was brought up in Mount Bures just over the border in the Essex and went to school in Colchester. I started working in Suffolk at Stratford St Mary aged 16, then moved to Hintlesham Hall and went on to The Hoste Arms, in North Norfolk before coming home to Suffolk and my own restaurant and delicatessen in Bungay. Since then I have stayed in Suffolk and am now working with Thorpeness and Aldeburgh Hotels running the company’s catering arm, Bespoke Events in Halesworth, from the Chefs Academy at the NSSA Skills Centre.
What makes the county special?
Obviously I am Suffolk through and through, it has been my living, my working and my backyard for as long as I can remember. So I wear my county pride firmly on my sleeve. Suffolk is a completely beautiful place to be, whether as a local, weekender or tourist. The people here are naturally welcoming , there’s also the history, architecture, nature but beyond the many other good things, it’s the excellence of the food and drink that stands out. We’ve got food festivals like The Woodbridge Shuck, which I helped create with the Simper family to promote River Deben shellfish and there’s also the excellent Aldeburgh Food and Drink Festival at Snape Maltings. We absolutely know how to spoil ourselves when it comes to fine local, seasonal, freshest ingredients, artisanal food and drink products. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the UK.
Do you enjoy walking and where do you like to walk?
I think as a chef I probably walk too much as it is! But yes getting outside with my wife Rebecca and the kids, Maddy and Seb, is a treat on precious Sundays off or holidays. Usually we wander near water in the Waveney Valley on our doorstep or on the coast, like Walberswick, Minsmere, Woodbridge before retreating for a pint or something to eat.
Where do you like to eat out?
We are a great county for dining out, from simple food-led pubs and super cafés to some real fine dining destinations and culinary addresses, with a whole array of distinctive fun places in between. After nearly three decades cooking in Suffolk and East Anglia, I am probably friends with nearly all the decent chefs at the county’s stoves, so wouldn’t do them justice to favour just a few. The Waitrose Good Food Guide is always a reliable starting point for discovering recommended places to eat .
Are there some special places that you’d recommend?
In line with my previous reply, no particular recommendations, but recent meals at some newer places have been: lunching alfresco on the delicious Middle Eastern-spiced and produce-led cooking at Darsham Nurseries, the Sail Loft in Southwold and Wyken Vineyards.
Adnams, Aspalls or Greene King?
I wouldn’t want to be separatist and throw my hat into a particular corner. We do brewing of beers and ciders so well in Suffolk, they really are one of our best exports. But being from East Suffolk, I drink Adnams more than anything, if that is a diplomatic answer! And Southwold is always a pleasure to visit with the family and a refreshing pint of something local is de rigueur.
Have you got any hobbies?
Most of our rare ‘time off’ is spent with friends and family. We love baking and gardening with the children, though they are starting to get to that more independent age. Entertaining is always fun, can’t stop cooking and looking after people even when we are in personal mode. A good dinner party is something we enjoy, either as hosts or guests. Great Suffolk food and fine wine is always best with interesting company, and eating out is sometimes too much of a busman’s holiday so staying in and dining at home is probably our favourite ‘hobby’.
Is there one picture you'd take to sum up our county?
I think it would be the beautiful Orwell estuary and our iconic bridge. The backdrop of fishing and sailing, farming on the banks, the Suffolk Food Hall, church spires, pubs, quaint houses, woodland it is a little piece of proper Suffolk at the entrance to our county town.
Where would you take newcomers on their first Suffolk tour?
One could spend days on a magical mystery tour around Suffolk with visitors showing them the landscape, the rivers and estuaries, the coastline, the history, the food and drink, the architecture, the culture. Of course, I am biased towards the coast as that’s where I live and work but towns like Bury and Ipswich and the heart of the Suffolk countryside fill me full of equal joy and are a distinct contrast .
For details of this year’s Shuck Festival visit www.thewoodbridgeshuck.org.uk