Motor Supply Co. Bistro taps Wesley Fulmer as new executive chef

Motor Supply Co. Bistro is once again shaking up Columbia’s foodie scene with its newest Executive Chef Wesley Fulmer.

New Executive Chef Wesley Fulmer at Motor Supply Co. Bistro (photo provided).

New Executive Chef Wesley Fulmer at Motor Supply Co. Bistro (photo provided)

Owner Eddie Wales has tapped Fulmer to bring his knowledge of locally grown ingredients and unique cooking techniques to the city’s best known farm-to-table eatery.

Fulmer’s journey to the kitchen is unusual. The Prosperity native comes from humble beginnings. His earliest memories of cooking and family come from the time spent watching his grandmother heat up lard to fry hand-cut potatoes. His maternal grandfather was a championship barbecuer, while his maternal grandmother would bake prize-winning pound cakes. His father also tended a garden that Fulmer said would produce “the best Silver Queen corn.”

“You use food as a mechanism of celebration. To celebrate family and just to bring people together is great,” he said. “You get a bunch of people in a room and you need one or two things, or both: you need some booze and you need some food.”

Fulmer originally attended the College of Charleston to study history. But as he went through school, Fulmer realized he found his studies boring. Appreciating the city’s architecture, he switched majors to study art history concentrating on historic preservation.

“Living in Charleston, the architecture is beautiful,” he said. “But it was pretty much, I was in college, I was too far into it to just hang it up and quit so I had to get a degree in something. But I love historic preservation and architecture.”

But Fulmer’s degree has shaped his understanding of culinary history and food culture. At any given time, the down-home, Southerner can wax poetic about the history and culture of shrimp and grits or thoughtfully explain the differences in Lowcountry and Creole cuisine.

Understanding the foundation of various dishes, allows Fulmer to build a menu and put a twist on traditional favorites.

“I personally like to take old classic dishes and reinvent them because the work’s already been done for you,” he said. “You know it’s going to taste great. You just gotta find a unique way to do it.”

Fulmer graduated from the College of Charleston in 1999 and headed out West to the Culinary School of the Rockies to be classically trained in French and Italian techniques, including French and Italian pastry and baking. He also spent time in Provence, France, working at Michelin-starred Restaurant Christian Etienne.

Fulmer later traversed the East coast and South working alongside top chefs and honing his skills. In Philadelphia, he refined his culinary skills at French-Chinese fusion restaurant Susanna Foo, where the restaurant’s namesake, Chef Foo, is a two-time James Beard Award winner and widely regarded for exceptional Chinese cuisine.

Chef Fulmer adds a twist to traditional Southern cuisine (photo provided).

Chef Fulmer adds a twist to traditional Southern cuisine (photo provided).

Under award-winning New Orleans Chef John Besh, Fulmer expanded his knowledge of the city’s Cajun and Creole culinary heritage and supported local farms through Besh’s flagship, Restaurant August.

Fulmer’s recent stint as Sous Chef at The Atlantic Room at The Ocean Course at The Kiawah Island Golf Resort near Charleston allowed him to lead the culinary team during the 2012 PGA Tour Championship.

“Chef Fulmer has a great understanding of when to push the envelope and when to hold back and let simplicity shine,” said Jonathan Banta, Chef de Cuisine at The Atlantic Room.

Fulmer describes his personal culinary tastes as straight from the Midlands, mixing “American Southern with strong Italian accents with some French.”

For Motor Supply, Fulmer will rely on his time spent in Charleston to influence his menu selection, as well as stay rooted to the foods South Carolinians favor like bacon, okra and tomatoes. Switching to a menu-style that changes daily is somewhat new for him.

“It keeps you on edge, keeps you challenging, but also makes you rely heavily upon your staff to make sure they’re seeing the same vision that you are,” he said.

Fulmer already has continued the restaurant’s charcuterie program, which consists of cured meats like prosciutto, country ham and pancetta. He also will host Harvest Week at Motor Supply in June. The event will acquaint the community with the local farmers that supply the ingredients for the restaurant’s dishes.

Fulmer’s goal is to introduce new concepts to Motor Supply’s guests, without being too high brow.

“The biggest thing to me is to stay humble. You don’t go above your guests,” he said.  You don’t throw fancy words out there that only cooks will understand. I’m big on that. I want everybody to enjoy our food.”

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