A BEAUTIFULLY quaint restaurant resides in the heart of Wiveliscombe.

Duende focuses on casual fine dining and the importance of seasonal and fresh ingredients.

After four years of pop up restaurants, Duende has settled in Wiveliscombe.

Led by Tim Zekki, it has become an instant success winning awards including a gold award by Taste of the West.

Now, Olivier Certain has joined the team and Tim is hoping the contrast of cooking styles will be a unique combination which will lead to exciting and unique dishes.

Duende offered both a Tasting Menu and an À La Carte menu throughout March and have now decided to stick to just the Tasting Menu - which remains a secret until the night.

Tim said: “We are going to run two menus. With Olivier joining us, it will be a nice combination. It is great to learn from each other, whilst also creating exciting dishes.”

“Working together should be good, it is so exciting to try new things” Olivier added.

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“The customers keep coming back and we still have new customers. We want to make sure we are doing things right which is why we are taking things one step at a time. We are not going too crazy to start with.”

So why are the two chefs so different?

Well, Olivier was classically French trained at Marseille Catering School. He worked in Michelin starred restaurants before his military service.

His first Sous Chef position was in Porlock where he was at a three-rosette restaurant. Since then, he is probably most well-known for working at Woods in Dulverton and Clavelshay Barn in North Petherton.

Tim is a self-taught chef, originally from Cyprus. He learnt a lot from his grandmother who was extremely passionate about cooking with no wastage.

Tim has grown up with this philosophy and is focussed on using meat, veg, fish etc with a nose to tail approach.

Tim then started Duende as a pop-up restaurant around the Chilterns.

He was known for his secret suppers in his delis in Twickenham and Isleworth and he was a London Finalist in UKTV’s Gary Rhodes’ Local Food Heroes.

Tim said: “I have always been passionate about cooking. It is in my blood, I love to cook.

“Before you start, you have to understand the reality of working in a kitchen because it is a challenge. We are not even open today but we’re still here, cooking stocks and so on.”

However, one things both chefs have in common is their love of local produce.

Duende sources many of its ingredients as locally as possible and this most certainly influences the quality of the dishes.

“To maintain the quality, we have to work very closely to the producers” Tim explained.

“When you work with small producers and learn about their produce, you get excited. In this area there is such fantastic produce. Every day is interesting when you have to think outside the box and create new dishes with the produce you are given.”

Olivier added: “I have been working in Somerset for over 15 years now, so I have met a lot of local producers. We get the salad fresh from a local lady.

“We had someone telling us all about Exmoor goat. As you know, goat isn’t a popular meat. It is something we are going to try and introduce – it is amazing produce.

“Also, the other day I picked some wild garlic and I have just finished making some bread with it.

“When you get good quality, fresh produce, you have to find something exciting to do with it.”

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Olivier’s favourite produce is the fish from Brixham.

He explained: “I love cooking fish. My passion is fish.

“But I do see myself as an all-round chef. When you work with chefs who are Michelin starred, you learn how to use everything, nothing goes in the bin.”

They both love to experiment with different ideas. Both Tim and Olivier took part in the Celebration of Beef evening at Exmoor Food Festival in February.

Tim said: “I created the dessert, using beef. I used a chunk of beef, cooked it slowly and then dehydrated it.

“I paired it with lava salt – it really played with your palate, the flavours that you got were totally unique and different.”

“I think everyone was pleasantly surprised about the dessert” Olivier laughed.

Both Tim and Olivier are excited about the future of this unique casual fine dining restaurant.

“Everyday is exciting. We bounce off each other well” Tim commented.

“Wait and see what the future holds…we have got a few ideas.

“We know what we want to achieve, and I know it will get better and better.”

If you fancy a visit to Duende, they are supporting the Exmoor National Park by holding special events celebrating their use of local produce to raise funds to support conservation and access projects.

At Duende, Chef Patron Tim Zekki is working with Simon and Alison of Wellhayes Vineyard on the edge of Exmoor to produce a tasting menu with wine matches from the South West to coincide with English Wine Week.

For more information visit www.duenderestaurant.co.uk or call 01984 624650.