Motor Supply Co. Bistro consistently gets high marks from Columbia diners and there's a reason for all that love: Chef Wesley Fulmer. Since 2014, he has been the guiding force behind the bustling Vista eatery. Fulmer's talents have won the attention of such media giants as Travel + Leisure and Fodor's Travel, and snagged multiple locally coveted "Best Restaurant" awards from Free Times, The State and Columbia Metropolitan Magazine. From Colorado to France to Kiawah Island, he's developed razor-sharp skills in some of the world's most lauded kitchens. It was a stroke of good luck for South Carolinians when he settled in the Capital City.
The freshest of South Carolina ingredients figure prominently in Fulmer's dishes, which are often created using a blend of conventional and contemporary methods, such as fermentation and sous vide. Heritage foods are another point of interest for this chef, who has teamed up with food historian, Dr. David Shields, to explore the regional significance of shad roe and other foods that are part of local culinary traditions. Fulmer is also a strong supporter of the SC farmers who employ sustainable practices.
"With a made-from-scratch, daily-changing menu, the seasonal produce truly guides our menu and aesthetic," Fulmer said. "I like to think of the seasons based on what produce is available-tomatoes, okra, corn, asparagus, strawberries, peaches and kale are a few ingredients that I look forward to using each year. We're lucky to be in an area where we have so much diversity in fresh vegetables, allowing us to really let the ingredients speak for themselves."
A Midlands native, Fulmer felt the first tug toward a culinary career while watching his grandfather work barbecue magic with whole hogs on smoky pits. As is often the case, he didn't initially answer the call, choosing instead to study at College of Charleston while waiting tables at a local eatery. In his leisure time, Fulmer and friends would host barbecues. It wasn't long before the social aspects took a back seat to the joys of tweaking sauces and hitting the meat with the right touch of smoke.
He sought classical training at the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Boulder. Armed with the French and Italian techniques he learned there, Fulmer landed a stint at the Michelin-starred Christian Etienne in France. Upon his return to the US, he worked under the tutelage of renowned chefs like New Orleans' John Besh and Philly's Susanna Foo. Eventually, he made his way back to the Lowcountry to serve as sous chef at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. His move to Columbia has truly brought the Prosperity born-and-raised chef full-circle, back to the place where he first heard the call to pursue a culinary career.
"I don't think that anyone chooses to be a chef or work in the industry," Fulmer said. "The industry chooses you."