There’s a fresh face in the kitchen at one of Columbia’s longest-lived and most popular independent restaurants. Wesley Fulmer, 38, has taken over as executive chef at Motor Supply Company Bistro. Fulmer inherits the position from Tim Peters, who served as executive chef for eight of the last 25 years Motor Supply has been open. Peters was one of the key proponents of the slow and local food movements in Columbia, an effort he plans to continue as he relocates to Vermont.
Free Times stopped by Motor Supply last week to get to know the new chef.
“One of the fastest swimmers in the ocean,” Fulmer remarked as he broke down a beautiful side of wahoo, caught the day before off the South Carolina coast. The Lowcountry of South Carolina was Fulmer’s home for the last several years of his career while he served as a sous chef in The Atlantic Room, Kiawah Island Golf Resort’s seafood restaurant at the Ocean Course.
Fulmer came to Kiawah from Restaurant August in New Orleans, where he worked under chef John Besh, just as Besh was becoming nationally known from television appearances on Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef, as well as his 2006 James Beard Award for Best Chef-Southeast. Fulmer credits his years with Besh as the greatest influence on his career.
“I knew I was in trouble as soon as I started working at August,” Fulmer says with a grin, “when the guy who was training me was just a line cook, when he used to be an executive chef somewhere else. And on the other side of the line was a guy who used to be a sous chef somewhere else. Everyone was quitting their management jobs to come work for him.”
There’s a lot to love about his new position at Motor Supply, according to Fulmer: “Usually when you go into a new restaurant in management, there’s a lot of things that need fixing, or need to be revamped. That was not the case here. They had everything ready for me to step in, and I thank Chef Peters for that.”
He seems right at home with the restaurant’s farm-to-table theme, too.
“I love that I can just hop in and start talking to all the purveyors that come around,” says Fulmer, as he names off the folks he’s spoken with from Wil-Moore Farms, Freshly Grown Farms and City Roots, among others.
“One of the first things that happened when I got here was Keith from Wil-Moore just showed up with a whole pig. And I’m like, ‘What do I do with this?’” Fulmer said with a laugh. “It was pasture raised, heritage breed and everything, so I decided to jump start some charcuterie right away. I’ve got a prosciutto hanging, some lonza stagionata [a dry cured pork loin] and capicola that’s about to take off, some pancetta. It’s a really great environment to do that.”
Fulmer plans to expand Motor’s list of South Carolina purveyors, too, to include some products he used at The Atlantic Room on Kiawah Island. Fulmer says he’s been working with Robert Moore at Senn Brothers Produce, telling him which farms’ products he’s used in the past.
“[Moore]’s worked closely with some of the farms in between Columbia and Charleston to bring in some field peas and English green peas, grown locally, that we’re serving here,” he says.
And while Fulmer may be new to Motor Supply, he’s not new to the Midlands. His family’s roots are in Prosperity and Chapin, where he got his first culinary job, helping his grandfather roast hogs — 14 of them at a time.
“He had me up on scaffolds at age 12, hammering a tin roof over a barbecue pit,” Fulmer says. “We’d all get together, stay up all night, flipping the hogs, spraying vinegar on them, making hash of the head meat. It was a family tradition.”
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