Bob Saunders, from Hampers: Village People interview

 Bob Saunders, Hampers, Hurstpierpoint

By Michèle Copeland

Bob Saunders, from Hampers, is a well known figure in the village. When I go to meet him, he stands behind his counter which is laden with cheese, Italian salamis and olives.

“There’s nothing more challenging and enjoyable to me than to find an unknown cheese for one of my customers,” he says with a bright smile. 

Bob prides himself on buying and stocking as many locally sourced products as possible. “However, the produce must be good quality. I won’t buy it just because it is local.”

He caught the cooking bug at a young age from his mother and from one of his uncles, who became one of his mentors.

He worked as Head Chef at The Carlton in London and at The Royal Bath, among other places. “I was definitely inspired by my mum too, who did a lot of home cooking, so I come from a long line of chefs,” he continues.

How did it all start?

Bob was born in Yeovil. His dad worked for the Great Western Railway, on steam trains, but was posted to Brighton following closure of the Yeovil branch. Bob was still a lad when the family moved.

Bob, who went to Portslade Boys School before training at Brighton Technical College, worked at Vandenburgh’s in Burgess Hill for about ten years, moving up from third chef to second chef and then head chef in the late 1990s. He was then approached by his accountant to ask if he could help out Michèle Bole from time to time in her restaurant in Hurstpierpoint – which he agreed to do.

Shortly afterwards the delicatessen next door to Michèle’s restaurant came up for sale, and Bob decided to go into partnership with Michèle, running both the restaurant and delicatessen side by side.

[Full story on page 10 of March 2018 Hurst Life magazine]