RETURNING to The Bower Inn in Bridgwater was a great decision for Alan Chilton, 50, who is now loving his role as head chef.

When he left school Alan became a chef, but didn’t fully become part of the food industry until his late twenties. Growing up in Oxford, he worked in most of the hotels and restaurants there including The Mole Inn and Brasserie Blanc.

In 2006, Alan moved to Exeter and ran an independent restaurant (which is now called COAL) for three years.

He explained: “That was quite a challenge because we were in a shopping centre, and we were an independent amongst places like Wagamama and so on. We pretty much had to build the brand from scratch. Over the course of three years we made it incredibly busy and successful, hence the reason it was sold.”

Alan and the owner of the restaurant then moved to The Sanctuary in Taunton (now The Bank), but after the owner died, the restaurant was sold.

Alan moved to The Bower Inn, then The Walnut Tree, and then came back to The Bower Inn about 15 months ago.

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He added: “Butcombe have done a really good job with The Bower Inn. They have given it the facelift that it needed. I am really happy with it and glad I came back.

“All the food is made fresh and cooked to order. We try and keep it as local and seasonal as we can.

“It is difficult to be completely local and seasonal, but everything we serve is reared in the UK.

“We make everything in house, the only thing we don’t make at the moment is bread – this comes from an artisan baker in Bristol, fresh daily.”

Alan’s favourite dish to cook is the pork belly. This includes an eight-hour slow roast pork belly with a fondant potato, tender stem broccoli with a honey and cider sauce. He also loves the West Country chicken dish, with wild mushrooms, bacon, peas and potato.

“One ingredient I couldn’t live without? Herbs I would say. All herbs” Alan remarked.

“A little bit of herbs here and there can make all the difference. We boil cream and butter with garlic and herbs to add to our mashed potato, subtle little differences like that go a long way. I would struggle without herbs to do what I do – and salt of course!

“I also really like my spices. When I lived in Oxford it was very multi-cultural with lots of Lebanese and Middle-Eastern sort of restaurants. I have a ridiculous intolerance to heat. Middle Eastern food is really clever with spices.

“On the current menu we have the smoked haddock fish cakes with a curry cream sauce. The next menu does have a few more Asian influences on it. For our special today I am making a South Indian fish curry. And my sausage roll was Indian-spiced.”

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Alan’s sausage roll recently won The Great Sausage Roll Off awards. Two chefs from Butcombe pubs went for the award. The other was a runner-up and Alan was the winner.

But they don’t only serve meat at The Bower Inn. They will cater to any dietary requirements if needed and many of their dishes are gluten-free.

Alan said: “A lot of what we make is gluten free. All our sauces are made from a natural reduction of natural stocks, made from animal bones, so the natural gelatine thickens them.

“We can normally cater for most dietary requirements, especially if we know someone’s requirements before they arrive.”

They also have a viewing section at the pub, where guests can watch the chefs cook. Alan explains that there is a bit of pressure, but he enjoys it when they get to interact with the customers and answer questions about the food.

He added: “Hopefully in the summertime, we are going to get an outdoor kitchen with a pop-up bar out there as well. We will do some nice smoked ribs and bits and pieces like that – add a bit of theatre, weather permitting of course!

“I still really enjoy it, I really like buzz of a busy kitchen. When it is fully busy, and the food is going out and it’s going well – there is no better job.”

To find out more visit or call 01278 422926.