Passionate is probably the best way to sum up Matt Budden.

As the executive chef at the Bournemouth Highcliff Marriott Hotel, he enthuses about the changes he has made to the Highcliff Grill restaurant since he took over last June.

But, as a Bournemouth man born and bred, he is also keen to promote his hometown as a foodie destination.

“I think that’s part of the chef’s role now,” he explained.

“You’re the face of the hotel because you can talk about food. Food is such a popular topic.”

Matt wants to put the Highcliff Grill on the map, and remind the locals in particular about its fabulous cliff-top location and its relaxed atmosphere for drinks and dinner.

“To me, the restaurant has its own identity and brand,” he said.

“There are no tablecloths, no formal dining rooms and there’s a relaxed atmosphere. We’ve changed the format of the menu and are taking down the barriers of people thinking of us as only for special occasions.”

The emphasis at the Highcliff Grill is on modern British food, while also serving a wealth of local seafood. Matt’s personal menu favourite is steak with duck fat chips.

“Local” is a key word for Matt, who ensures everything served at the restaurant is sourced within the Dorset and Hampshire area.

He is involved with Real Local Flavour, an initiative bringing food businesses together across Dorset, Wiltshire and the New Forest, whilst proudly boasting the Grill’s recent accolade of being awarded a four out of five rating from Fish2Fork (a campaigning sustainability restaurant guide) for its sustainability achievements.

“We are also working on a project for Bournemouth to be rated a blue fish county to make Bournemouth more of a foodie destination,” he added.

In addition to making changes at the restaurant, it’s clear Matt is passionate about promoting the town as a whole.

He is heavily involved in the Bournemouth Food and Drink Festival, now in its third year, and will be giving demonstrations at the event later this month.

Matt is also a member of the Dorset branch of the Chef’s Forum, a scheme aimed at linking up chefs, suppliers and colleges.

“It’s about training the next generation,” he explained.

“We’ve got about four Bournemouth and Poole College apprentices here and I truly believe that it is about looking to the future.”

Continuing the education theme, Matt has just run a successful cookery class at the restaurant and is keen to make this a regular feature, with a view to developing a Highcliff Cookery School in the long term.

“People are interested in the food,” he said. “But they want to know how to do it slightly better.”

It’s clear that Matt’s passion extends further than the kitchen – he is about shaping the future of our food culture.

Dark chocolate truffle with cardamom, lime and crème fraiche sorbet

Dorset Society:

Matt melted dark chocolate and butter, then whisked egg whites and sugar before folding in the chocolate mixture and then some flour.

The mixture was spooned into metal rings and slow cooked at 90 degrees for an hour, before being allowed to set for at least two hours.

A hot palette knife or chef’s blowtorch was used to ease it out of the mould.

The truffle was served with a crème fraiche sorbet, made by whisking crème fraiche with cardamom and lime syrup until smooth before churning in an ice cream maker until set.

Matt topped the dish with crackle crystals, fresh lime, grated fresh cardamom pods and an edible pansy.