the passion behind our food

We're pleased to introduce our Executive Head Chef, Paul Hegley!

Let us introduce you to Paul Hegley, our executive head chef and the man adding flavour, spice and passion to the Gara Rock kitchen. When you visit our restaurant, it’s quite the dining experience. But it’s the people behind the scenes that put the icing on the cake (literally!). 

We sat down with Paul, who helps make it all happen behind the scenes, to talk all things food. Taking time out of his busy schedule, he gave us a little peek into his cooking journey as well as offering us a flavour of things to come!

Like so many of us, Paul couldn’t resist the Devon charm, so when Gara Rock was seeking a chef, he thought the stars were aligned. Having spent recent years impressing guests with his varied menus in London, last year he packed up and headed to the coast with his wife and three year old daughter.

An avid food lover, in his own time he enjoys playing guitar (he used to be in a band!). He also won’t say no to a game of tennis. But you’ll have to work hard to score a point… he used to play at county level.


So, Paul what inspired you to become a chef?

I would love to give an extravagant answer but in reality… it all started with a job at my local pub! I used it as a chance to get money, be creative and learn. But soon realised I enjoyed the atmosphere of the kitchen – there was something addictive about it!


Sounds like an interesting start to your journey, what do you love most about working at Gara Rock?

I can’t pick one thing - the whole experience is something else! The location is simply breathtaking. The restaurant itself is phenomenal. And the people are passionate. I could see so much potential, I couldn’t wait to get stuck in and let the creative juices flow.

With the lockdowns, what’s the dish are you loving cooking at home?

Sometimes it’s nice to take a step back and simply follow a recipe – letting someone else do the hard work for you. So, I’ve been following a lot of Joe Wicks’ recipes recently (I know it’s ironic given he stayed at Gara Rock in 2019!). Using other chefs’ recipes helps with inspiration for my own dishes. I’ll never say no to my wife's lasagne either!

What makes Gara Rock so special?

The feel. It’s difficult to describe but the feel of Gara Rock as you step through the doors is unique. From the lounge, restaurant, suites, and location, it gives you a warm, welcoming feeling. Peter, our hotel manager, says it’s ‘luxury without pretentiousness’ and I can’t think of a better way to describe it. It’s a hotel that you’ll always remember.

What advice would you give to an aspiring chef reading this?

I look back fondly at my junior days; I had a great time while learning the ropes. You absorb so much from your peers and find inspiration in something new every day. So, my advice would be to have fun experimenting with different ingredients and don’t be afraid to push the boundaries!

What's the inside scoop on the restaurant this year?

Our restaurant maybe closed until 17 May but that doesn’t mean we’re taking a break. Instead, we put our heads together and came up with a great idea… to run a pop up from our Garavan, so our guests and day visitors can sample a flavour of Gara Rock. We’re offering food that can be enjoyed on a clifftop picnic bench, while admiring the view after a refreshing walk. From a jacket potato to Salcombe lobster and crab – it’s a little taster of what’s to come.

I’ll let you into a secret, I’m excited about introducing our Ox Grill into the mix! I can’t say too much just yet but our terrace area, as beautiful as it is, is currently getting a little makeover and the Ox Grill will be a great feature, allowing us to serve up a new twist for our alfresco dining!

Our lunch menu currently shows off all the greatest hits: goan curry, fish and chips, crab tarte, and so on. And our Ox Grill ‘Over the Coals’ menu will complement this, mixing land, sea, and allotment. We’re also spicing things up a little… so look out for Salcombe scallops in champagne, we promise they’ll be worth it! But if you really can’t wait, here's first peek at the menu. If you're not hungry now, you will be!