YOU’VE heard of celebrity chefs? Stephen Pulman is the celebrities’ chef.
During a career which has spanned 57 years, Mr Pulman has cooked for some of the world’s most famous actors and singers, and royalty.
Photos on the walls of the small Bin 106 restaurant at Mooloolaba tell only part of the story: John Wayne, Bette Midler, Spike Milligan, Neil Diamond, Bridget Bardot, Meryl Streep, Princess Diana, Princess Margaret, Prince Andrew, Princess Grace and Prince Rainier, to name a few.
Mr Pulman started his career peeling potatoes at the May Fair but also worked at the exclusive Annabel’s, Mirabelle, and The Belfry in London, and Papagayo in St Tropez.
His first brush with celebrity came when, as a sous chef at The Belfry, he was asked to go into the restaurant to meet Dame Joan Sutherland.
“I was only about 21 at the time and didn’t know her from a bar of soap,” he said.
Mr Pulman did not get always get to chat to his famous customers but had a half hour conversation with Bette Midler after preparing a rose-coloured buffet for the launch of The Rose at The Ritz.
“She stood out talking to us for half an hour, and then was asked to go in, and did a quick tour of the lounge room and left. She’d spent more time talking to us,” he said.
He has fond memories of Neil Diamond rehearsing for a show at Annabel’s.
“My staff were all lined up on chairs along the dance floor and he turned everything around and sang to them,” he said.
Mr Pulman said he had never been worried about cooking for big names.
“They love to be treated as normal people. As I’m walking to you is how I’d talk to any of them,” he said.
He said he had been asked several times to write a book “but I haven’t got around to it.”
His career could easily have taken another turn had he taken up an offer to become a road manager for a muso friend he grew up with in Soho – Cat Stevens.
But he is confident he made a better chef than he would have made a road manager.
“My career had just started taking off. I was just about to become sous chef and head chef. I wasn’t confident that he would make it,” he said.
“I went to hear him recording. I Love My Dog by Cat Stevens. I said, ‘You’re joking?’ It go to number two, so what do I know? His next song went to number one.”
During nearly five years in restaurants at Mooloolaba, Mr Pulman has kept a low profile.
He said he enjoyed cooking for everyone famous or not.
“What really pleases me the most is when ordinary Australians come in and they don’t know what to expect and they’ve never had food like we have, and all of a sudden, their eyes light up when they’ve tasted something they’ve never had before.”
But he is not done with cooking for celebrities and has a list he would like to cook for, including David Attenborough, Oprah Winfrey Angelina Jolie, Stephen Hawking, Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock, Russell Crowe and the Minogue sisters.
He hopes local celebrities will also frequent Bin 106 and have their photos added to the walls.
More of Mr Pulman’s celebrity reminiscences:
Author Roald Dahl – “He came to the restaurant with his girlfriend. I was talking to him and said I’d never read any of his books. A signed copy of one of his books came the next day.”
Comedian Ronnie Corbett – “He came into the restaurant one day about 2.30pm, after lunch. He walked in with his wife and I was playing some obscure music by Flanagan and Allen from the 1940s. I’m standing there talking to Ronnie and his wife is singing to the music and said, ‘Do you know I was in the chorus line with Flanagan and Allen?”
Tina Turner – “I served Tina Turner a plate of sandwiches. She was going through that phase with Ike at the time. The sound system went down and she told everyone to come back next week and she did, and she did it all again.”
Spike Milligan – “I really like Spike Milligan. I’ve seen him at two or three of the restaurants I’ve worked in. He used to play squash in our squash club, along with John Cleese. Spike did an ad for Minis, and he had a Mini with a big British flag on the roof. I just had a Lancia. I was driving out of the carpark one day and he drove across the carpark and stopped in front of me and said, ‘Why are you driving a foreign car?’ in a humour way, of course.”
Meryl Streep – “An introvert like me. Lovely woman. Quiet, unassuming, down to earth, pretty easy to talk to.”