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PAUL
AINSWORTH

talks to us about his new cookbook, working with some of the country's biggest names and coming to Bath in July.

Image credit: Andrew Callaghan

Many thanks for taking the time to talk to me ahead of what must be a busy time with the release of your first cookbook. I understand this book has been 18 years in the making, so why is now the right time?

 

I’ve been asked so many times over the years: ‘When are you going to write a cookbook’. But the timing never felt quite right until now. Eighteen years might seem a long time to wait, but it’s been a journey of learning, defining, and evolving my own style of cooking, which can’t be rushed. And I wanted my first cookbook to appeal to a wide range of cooks, because I love all kinds of food, from sandwiches to real family showstoppers where you want to push the boat out. I’m proud to think that this cookbook has something for everyone.

 

The book takes on an autobiographical style, from your early days at your parents’ guesthouse to earning your Michelin star, chronicling your favourite dishes along the way. Was it your intention to write it this way, rather than a typical cookbook?

 

I always knew that my debut cookbook had to be more than just a collection of some of my favourite recipes. For me, it also had to acknowledge the people who have nurtured and supported me over the years, and who have helped to make me the chef I am today. And I wanted to tell their stories and the inspiration behind the recipes. And in turn inspire other cooks, by sharing tips about how to elevate their own cooking.

"Eighteen years might seem a long time to wait, but it’s been a journey of learning, defining, and evolving my own style of cooking, which can’t be rushed."

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Paul Ainsworth - Image credit Simon Burt.jpg

Image credit: Simon Burt

What are your earliest memories of food/cooking and did this help shape your decision to study catering and hospitality at college?

 

My earliest memory of food cooking was as a kid, growing up in my parents’ guest house, watching my dad cook homely family food for our guests during the week, and my mum preparing dishes inspired by her Seychellois heritage at weekends. Both of them were great home cooks, worked as a team, and their biggest goal was to make sure their guests had the best hospitality experience possible. That’s an ethos I’ve tried to replicate ever since in my restaurants in Cornwall today.  

 

It’s at college that you met Gary Rhodes. How did his influence shape your future?

 

Gary Rhodes was the first celebrity TV chef I ever met, and he was so ahead of his time. He was a brilliant chef and a culinary pioneer. He never put anything on a plate that didn’t earn its right to be there. It was all about flavour and style. Watching him work was inspiring!  He was also a really decent, kind human being.  

You’ve worked with Gary Rhodes, Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing to name a few. Do you take elements of each of their work and create your own style, or did you have an ethos in mind when you started and then select the bits from each of their skills that will help you get to where you wanted to be? 

 

As a chef you never stop learning and pushing culinary boundaries. Every one of those chefs was at the top of their game, so it was a privilege to work beside them. And of course, you learn incredible skills along the way that you take with you in your career, and into your own restaurants. I remember that I came to Padstow and started No6, thinking I could turn it into a London enclave.  But that didn’t really work for Cornwall. Success came when I found my own style of cooking, that was better suited to the laid-back Cornish lifestyle and environment. But you still bring the quality and all the knowledge that you learned along the way that is so important; you just adapt it to suit your new situation.

Is being a chef in their kitchens as legendary as we are led to believe? 

 

Absolutely 100%. Being a chef is a tough job, and working in a professional kitchen is a tough environment, so you need to be at the top of your game all the time and stay focussed if you want to be successful. And you also need to be able to inspire your team. Gary, Gordon, and Marcus are hugely successful chefs, and that didn’t happen by accident!

Your first opportunity to run your own restaurant was at No 6 in Padstow. How much did you learn about business and yourselves at that time?

 

As I mentioned above, I thought I could just transport a London-style restaurant to Cornwall. But I quickly found that Cornwall is a very different vibe to London. What I love about being here is the incredible produce right on my doorstep – great fishing and farming ingredients delivered from just a few miles away. I learned the importance of developing close relationships with our local suppliers and championing their produce. In the book I talk about No6 and how we got off to a shaky financial start and we had to adapt pretty quickly. We had to pivot to attract business, and I learned not to allow my ambition to cloud my judgement. We had to build a financially successful business first; any goals I had for culinary accolades could come later.

"Everything in the book has been made using these incredible ingredients, and I particularly namecheck some of the local suppliers within each chapter."

How much has your cooking been influenced by the Southwest and can we see that in the new book? 

 

We’re surrounded by great produce here in the southwest, from fish and seafood to meat and dairy produce, vegetables etc. We use these ingredients every day in our restaurants, and the recipes in the book include some of my favourites from The Mariners and Caffe Rojano, as well as what I love to cook at home for my family. Everything in the book has been made using these incredible ingredients, and I particularly namecheck some of the local suppliers within each chapter.

FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD. PAUL AINSWORTH. IMAGE CREDIT ISSY CROKER.jpg

Image credit: Issy Croker

As we welcome in the summer (finally), what ingredients start to find their way onto your menus.

 

As the summer approaches we’ve got some incredible soft fruit like strawberries and raspberries coming into season, deliciously sweet peas, tomatoes, and sustainably caught fish.  One of my favourite things is to cook fresh mackerel on a beach barbeque, flavoured with fresh herbs like mint.  If you want the best result with your cooking, always use seasonal ingredient in their prime.

 

Do you have a food heaven and food hell? 

 

My food heaven is anything involving cheese.  My food hell is olives – I’ve tried to like them, but I just can’t!

We are very lucky in Bath to be able to hear you talk about your new book when you come to Toppings and co on July 9th. What can we expect from the event?

 

I’m looking forward to a really relaxed evening talking about my love of food, ingredients, my journey so far, and delving into and demo’ing, some of my favourite recipes!

 

Finally, can you put into words the emotions you had when you received your first Michelin star in 2013. 

 

I will remember that day for the rest of my life, but actually we heard about it purely by chance. A good chef friend phoned me and said that there was a huge buzz on Twitter, the Michelin awards had been leaked early, and he’d read that Paul Ainsworth No6 had been awarded a Michelin star.  The culinary world was buzzing. My wife Emma and I had an agonising wait for hours until the Michelin offices opened at 9am before we could ring and ask if it was true.  The gentleman on the other end of the phone said: “Well, if it says it in black and white, then it must be true.” We couldn’t quite believe it. Emma and I just cried. Halfway through service that day I remember thinking to myself, barely daring to believe it: ‘We’re now serving Michelin quality food.’  

For any professional chef, winning a Michelin star is a massive deal. And apart from my marriage to Emma and the birth of our two daughters, Ci Ci and Audrey-Bloom, it is my happiest memory so far, and it’s all ‘For the Love of Food’!

Win

a copy of Paul Ainsworth's 'For The Love Of Food', published by Pavilion Books. RRP: £ 26.00 Hardcover

Book tickets to see Paul at Topping & Company (Bath) at 7pm on Tuesday 9th July. Click the link below to book.

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