‘I feel I have a huge amount to give back to an industry that keeps on providing me with challenging and inspiring opportunities to refine and master my craft; that’s what keeps me coming back every day.’
Ben Spalding, PuzzleProjects

Ben’s Story

‘I sort of fell into the industry after a really rough childhood. I was fifteen years old and spent nearly two years as a kitchen porter for a crazy Spanish chef. She used to shout at me like mad for my whole shift but then at the end of service she would bring me over a dish she had cooked with her heart and soul, with the biggest smile – it was her way of saying sorry. I thought that was such a personal, sweet and genuine thing to do, despite her beasting me all service for being slow and inefficient!’

‘I can’t say I had any real interest in food until I reached the crossroads that most teenagers face when they leave school. At sixteen I came second in a cooking competition at Brighton City College and got the opportunity to go for a two-week unpaid stage at the renowned 2 Michelin-starred Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Great Milton, Oxford. I remember my first morning so vividly; it was 6.30am and I was given until 8am to lightly blowtorch and peel 400 cherry tomatoes, having been shown precisely how to do it. By 11.10am I wasn’t even halfway through; I was being given a really hard time, and rightly so. I felt like crying with frustration at the failure of it all and I literally made the decision at that moment to dedicate myself completely to being a chef.’

‘I sought out and trained under some of the most skilled and revered Michelin-starred chefs on the planet, earning barely enough to get by and working so many hours that my family and social life was non-existent. I sacrificed everything that matters in anyone’s life and continually forced myself out of my comfort zone. High-end cooking is a lonely place at any level; it isn’t a job – it’s a lifestyle.’

‘I’m proud to say that I have grafted bloody hard for everything I have achieved; I have never been handed anything on a silver platter and have gone to insane lengths at times to create opportunities for myself. I have made catastrophic mistakes and been knocked down time and time again but I have got back up and pushed on, always learning and moving forward. This, for me, is what defines you as a chef – and as a person.’

‘The best thing is, I’m continually questioning and reinventing myself and I’m still learning; I haven’t even achieved 5{e5598f05e5a2f48a2b8279ae7f068b768e885fab3c1e2e5e148133b14947df16} of what I want to in this amazing industry. Having full creative and operational control at PuzzleProjects allows me to explore how I can bring together areas I feel intensely passionate about – delicious, accessible, affordable food, non-commercial music, film production, design and art – and create high-energy experiences. I have a huge amount to give back to an industry that keeps on providing me with challenging and inspiring opportunities to refine and master my craft; that’s what gets me up at 5am and that’s what keeps me coming back every day.’

Ben's recipes

“Aesthetics and technique matter but being able to cook truly well means you are completely dominant over the preparation and seasoning of each ingredient and fight to extract as much flavour as you can.”

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‘I am exploring how two of my major passions – delicious, creative food and underground electronic music – can be combined in relaxed, accessible and affordable events.’

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