Top chef Nathan Outlaw talks about how living by the sea informed his cooking, and his life in Port Issac. Interview: Alex Reece
I grew up near Maidstone in Kent and we spent two weeks nearly every summer in Hayle, just outside St Ives, camping and running wild. I declared then that I would live in Cornwall when I grew up – and I do.
When I wanted to learn more about seafood cookery, at the time the best place to do that was with Rick Stein. I got on a train, arrived at The Seafood Restaurant and asked for a job. I met my wife, a Padstow girl, while working there. I’d already fallen in love with Cornwall, so it didn’t take much for me to put roots down. I love the sea and can’t be away from it for long.
Where’s my favourite seaside town? I have to say Port Isaac, don’t I? Mind you, I really do like it, that’s why I located the restaurants there. It gets very busy in summer, though, so I tend to like it more in winter when it’s quieter.
I spend far too much time looking out of the restaurant window and wondering what the fishermen in the bay are going to bring me to cook. Watching and being by the sea has a calming influence on me. I have a very hectic schedule and even a few minutes looking out to sea can give me time to gather my thoughts.
A perfect day here would be spent with my family and our dog, Bud the lurcher. We’d take a long walk across the beach – Rock Beach is great and surprisingly long. We’d pop into my pub, The Mariners, for lunch or maybe over to Port Isaac if Fresh from The Sea is open and have one of Calum and Tracey’s famous crab sandwiches (the best in the UK!). If the weather was good, we’d have a barbecue on the beach – fresh mackerel, good bread and crispy salad – there’s nothing better.
At the moment, I’m writing a new book. It’s a sort of ‘year in the life of’ Restaurant Nathan Outlaw. It will be focusing on the seasons, what’s good at various times of the year; the people involved in running the restaurant, suppliers, producers and so on. It’s very exciting.
For more on Nathan’s restaurants and books, see nathan-outlaw.com.