Charlotte Vincent

Since taking over as head chef of Devon’s The Five Bells Inn in 2019, Charlotte Vincent has strived to make her food stand out and has been rewarded with accolades, including a place in the Top 50 Gastropubs.

‘When you look at other people’s menus, you realise you have to go above and beyond to make a mark these days,’ says Charlotte. ‘It’s all about tweaking what you’re doing to make yourself different from other places; doing little things like using ex-dairy beef in our burgers and using lamb fat pastry in our ox cheek pies helps us stand out. That’s what I’ve been doing from day one, and we’ve been noticed.’ It’s this element of being able to take the food to a whole new level whilst maintaining a level of informality which particularly appeals to Charlotte about cooking at a gastropub. ‘I just love how cosy and inviting pubs can be,’ she explains. ‘But you can still come and have a Michelin star standard meal.’

By no means has Charlotte always been a pub chef; in fact, her position at The Five Bells was the first time she’d worked in a non-restaurant kitchen, and up until that point her career as a chef had been far from traditional. Growing up in Devon, she ended up joining the army and worked her way up to rank of corporal whilst training to be a chef, before leaving to work for Michael Caines at Gidleigh Park. ‘I had it on paper that I was a chef when I came out of the army but initially, I didn’t feel like I could deliver the food that Michael required,’ explains Charlotte. ‘So I decided to go back to square one, going in as a commis and learning as much as I possibly could from Michael and his team.’ Working her way up the ranks at Gidleigh Park, she eventually moved to The Royal Clarence with Caines spending a decade as one his pastry chefs, but in her mid-twenties Charlotte took the decision to quit the industry.