What are your earliest memories of being interested in food?
I suppose my earliest memories are of cooking with my Mum at home, the usual fairy cakes and rolling out odd bits of pastry.Later came the excitement of being in a big industrial kitchen with my Dad where I was allowed to flip toast and tray up sausages.I’m not sure when an interest in food, as such, really started.I think it’s something that creeps up on you and before you realise it you’re hooked.
What would you say has inspired your cooking the most?
The fantastic produce I’ve been lucky enough to have available to me.It makes me want to find a way to do it justice rather than just cook it and put it on a plate.I’ve also drawn inspiration from every chef I’ve ever worked with.All of them have taught me something, it’s just a matter of listening and thinking about what you’ve seen.Sometimes I’ve learned what not to do too!
Describe how you see your own culinary style and how it has evolved over the years…
I think my style looks simple but it relies on complexity of flavours that compliment rather than mask the star of the dish.I don’t do heavy sauces. That’s why is has to be so precise, there’s nothing to hide behind.
Tell us a bit about what you’re are currently doing…
I’m doing what I love best.When Restaurant Nathan Outlaw relocated to Port Isaac earlier this year I made the decision to get back into the kitchen rather than going off doing other things. I’m in the kitchen 95% of the time and it’s where I’m happiest.
I’m also excited to be involved with the national ‘There’s an Adventure Brewing’ campaign with Sharp’s Brewery, who I’ve been working with for years. They are as passionate about beer as I am about food, so working together has always felt natural.For this, ‘foodies’ have the chance to win a cooking masterclass with me in Cornwall. I’m looking forward to it because I’m sure they’ll have lots of interesting ideas. The winners will take part in a two day adventure, going on to cook their own recipe in a Masterchef style cook-off for a special guest panel. The winning dish will feature on the menu at The Mariners, the pub in Rock that I run with Sharp’s. To enter, you just need to upload your favourite recipes to pair with one of Sharps’ beers and say why it works at www.sharpsadventure.co.uk.
I’m also putting the finishing touches to my third book, which is due for publication next Spring. This time I’ve added a chapter of desserts that go well with seafood dishes following a number of requests from customers and people who’ve bought the other books. I’m hoping it will go down well!
What food trends are exciting you right now?
I’m doing lots of experimenting with cures at present and I’m also using Verjus, a really old ingredient made from pressed unripe grapes.It’s proving to be very useful.
I’m also excited by the ‘family’ style of dining that is becoming more popular.After all, sharing a meal should be a social experience and I sometimes think we’ve lost sight of that in the busy lives we lead, so it’s great to create dishes that are specifically designed to do slow people down and help them to enjoy eating leisurely rather than grabbing a bite on the hoof.
What kind of experience do you aim to give guests at your restaurants?
I want them to have the very best food and drink in relaxed surroundings with staff who really care about the experience our customers have and love the job they are doing.There’s nothing worse than trying to enjoy a meal and being scared to move or relax.Nor is there any excuse for disinterested or surly staff.
What would you say has been the most memorable moment in your culinary career so far?
That’s a difficult one.There have been so many. Probably being awarded my first Michelin star at The Black Pig in Rock.It was so busy.I had a new baby, a new restaurant and only two of us in the kitchen.When the news came in, it took several days for it to sink in before we realized what we’d achieved! Also being awarded The AA Chefs’ Chef of the Year.I went along to the awards and had no idea at all I was going to win it.When my name was announced, someone had to nudge me as it hadn’t registered.It’s extra special to me because it was voted for by my peers.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self, starting out a career in the world of food?
Three things.Listen and ask questions.Remember that there’s a business side to being a chef as well as a creative side.If you have to go into partnership, read the small print carefully.
If you could take a plane ride to any restaurantin the world, just for one meal, where would you go?
Asador Etxebarri, near San Sebastian, Spain.Barbecued food at its finest and as you’ve never seen before.Nothing like what you do in your back garden!