AN exciting new venture is opening next month, in a beautiful quaint town in Somerset.

28 Market Place is a new project from Ben and Vanessa Crofton, who are set to open a restaurant, bakery and wine shop in a stunning Grade II* listed building the heart of Somerton.

It will celebrate the very best of West Country and wider British produce with a modern European menu and house-made artisan bread, pastries and filled sourdough doughnuts, made fresh daily. The adjoining wine shop will carry up to 100 wines not found on the main wine list.

They have also recruited Head Chef, Dan Fletcher, 33, a Great British Menu finalist with a passion for fresh and local produce.

Dan grew up in Yorkshire and began his career in catering at just 14. Working at a locally famous restaurant as a pot wash, Dan worked his way up and developed a passionate love for cooking.

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He said: “One day, I just remember the chef being like ‘Dan, I need you to help in the kitchen’ and it was more like I was forced that day to be a chef.

“I fell in love with the intensity, the comradery and the focus of doing the job right and making sure things were precise. It was so different from school and that’s what I liked about it.

“Everything was so new, and it was so interesting, so I wanted to know more about every single part of the job. I then went to catering college and did a management course in catering, which was mainly food focused to get me introduced to the industry.”

After deciding that he loved fine dining, Dan went to work with Tom Kitchin in Edinburgh at the Michelin-starred The Kitchin.

Dan explained: “He really grounded me as a chef and I loved his ethos of taking fresh local produce and cooking it very simply but in such a precise way that the dish becomes so impressive.”

From five months in South Africa to six months in New Zealand, Dan gained a wealth of experience in various different countries. He spent time in Australia, South East Asia, India, Malaysia and the West Coast of America.

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“Across different countries ingredients change and styles change” Dan said, “but in all cultures, the way the dishes are put together is so important. The ultimate goal is the same – to create delicious plates of food that people want to eat.”

When Tommy Banks set up the Black Swan in Oldstead, Dan joined them during the early stages and he loved being part of it. He added: “It is like a family and I really enjoyed my time there.”

Dan reached the final of the Great British Menu in 2018 and loved the experience but admitted that is was one of the most stressful times of his life.

“I have a lot of emotions about this. It was probably one of the most stressful times in my life, but the most enjoyable, it was a complete roller-coaster” Dan said.

“I found myself questioning everything I wanted to make – it tested me to my limit. I was so delighted when I won the North East round. It was an honour for me to be included with some of these great chefs around the country.

“Working with the camera crew was an amazing experience. I saw professionalism in another environment that was very similar to mine - of course it’s live and they have to achieve so many shots during a set amount of time. It was great to watch those guys, they were so efficient and so dedicated. They were an amazing team and it was great to see that passion and enthusiasm.”

As soon as Ben got in touch and told Dan about his vision, he decided that 28 Market Place was exactly where he wanted to be so, in July, Dan left his fast-paced life in London and moved to the peaceful countryside of Somerset.

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Dan added: “Me and Ben had been in communication for about five months. I knew him a bit from his time as general manager at The Square restaurant in Mayfair, where I worked under Phil Howard. He left just as I joined, but I felt like I knew him from his legacy that he had left in the restaurant.

“He phoned and said he had this restaurant in Somerton - ‘I can’t tell you on the phone, you’ll just have to come and have a look at it’.

“Ben has an amazing charisma and character and he told me about the space and what they wanted to achieve. I felt like this was the right next step for me.”

Fresh and local produce are integral to Dan’s cooking and he can’t wait to work with the fabulous producers in Somerset.

Dan explained: “We are putting a lot of effort into sourcing produce from the local area, and the menu will be 100% seasonal. I’ve stood and chatted to all the farmers myself and being able to shout about their amazing produce which we’re bringing into the restaurant will be great.

“It isn’t about fine dining, it is not pretentious – it’s modern and delivered in a way people can enjoy it. It is about combining comfort with decadence, to create a feeling of being somewhere special.

“Somerton is such a beautiful location. It is so exciting for me as a chef and I can’t wait to get stuck in.”

28 Market Place is set to open on January 3 2020. To find out more visit