STEPHEN PULMAN REFLECTS ON HIS WORK WITH ROCK STARS AND ROYALTY
Stephen Pulman doesn’t know where to start when asked about his life and his work. “I’ve had such a huge career,” he says.
He is the first to admit he has had a colourful life and an equally colourful career, spanning over five decades and several continents.
But it could very easily have been quite a different journey. When Cat Stevens (who goes by the name of Yusuf lslam) had a hit with one of his early songs, he asked Pulman to be his manager.
It was tempting, but Pulman’s own career was taking off. His passion for food won and an illustrious career followed.
He became a head chef at the age of 22 and has held the top position in some of London’s most elite kitchens, including head chef at The Belfry, Mirabelle (which was bought by Marco Pierre White in 1998 but is no longer open) and Annabel’s.
In these roles he cooked for members of the British royal family, including Prince Charles and Princess Anne, as well as catering for Princess Diana’s brother’s 2lst and entertainment greats such as Bette Midler, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Neil Diamond, Tina Turner and Diana Ross.
“I’ve sat and talked to people like Meryl Streep,” he says. But he struggles to pinpoint the highlights of his career – there are so many.
Surprisingly, what stands out is not a star-studded memory but the words of a German woman in his first head chef role. “She invited me into the restaurant and she said: ‘Do you know young man, this food is cooked with love’, and that was so good to hear because that’s what it is about.
“The first celebrity that invited me into the restaurant ever – I was a sous chef at the time and the head chef was away – was Dame Joan Sutherland.”
There was also the time he was called into the office at Annabel’s where he was head chef and told they could be awarded one or two Michelin stars – and then being told they couldn’t have them because Annabel’s was a private club.
Pulman, who has a French mother, English father and Russian and Polish influences, grew up with a passion for food. “I had grandparents that were cooking up all these fantastic things,” he says.
He opened a restaurant at Montville called Mirabelle and ran it for nine years. He has also taught at TAFE and worked for a company importing machinery for the industry. “But I’m really a chef. I’m more comfortable doing that than anything else.”
He started in the industry at the age of 14 with a two-year course at his school where they cooked for the heads of department.
He believes food, like wine and lovemaking, are the great loves in life. “Food is a little like theatre – people come to be entertained,” he says. “It shouldn’t be something that you just throw down your throat. Food is a passion.” And it is a passion Pulman has never grown tired of. Despite being just over 70 years of age, he shows no signs of slowing down. “No way. What for?” he asks. “I don’t sit down – hardly at all. I still do 12 hours a day and I still train and I’m fit.”
But while he can name drop some of the biggest stars of the ’70s and ’80s, he says they are people like everyone else. And he is just as happy to meet and cook for you or anyone else who walks through his door. “No I don’t miss it because they’re just people and I love meeting people. What I do miss every so often, I do miss the depth of culture of Europe, but not a lot.”
He also loves helping people and his previous cafe (Le Bistro Jardin) gave him that opportunity. “I did counselling for four years for Lifeline and that was part of having that cafe” he says. “It’s more than just being a chef – there’s a whole lot more and that’s not just entertaining people, it’s also helping people.”
With his new venture, Bin 106, Mooloolaba’s best new restaurant, you can experience Stephen’s passion for food accompanied by boutique wines from some of the best wineries in Australia.