We caught up with Paul Ainsworth in Padstow, the picturesque pocket of English seaside he calls home, to talk food, family and the future:
Can you tell us a little bit about your style of cooking?
I’m all about putting flavour first; the presentation just comes naturally. Over the past few years, although Padstow
is on the Cornish coast, I’ve tried to move away from fish slightly, particularly in main courses, to showcase the farming industry in Cornwall. Lots of places here serve fish, so we like to highlight other amazing local produce like world-class beef, incredible lamb and duck from Cornwall’s only duck farmer.
How would you describe Cornwall to someone who’s never visited?
It’s one of the most beautiful parts of the world. There’s a lovely contrast – the south is quite stony but in the north there are sandy beaches and the sea is turquoise and clear.
Where are your favourite food destinations?
I went on a great trip to San Sebastián in Spain. I ate at Arzak (a famed three-star restaurant) and loads of pintxos bars. Unbelievable stuff – for just one euro you could get a piece of roasted foie gras with damson chutney. You order a couple of plates then move on to the next place.
Have you been to the UAE?
Yes. At the start of our honeymoon my wife and I stopped in Dubai for three days on our way to South Africa. We stayed at the Al Qasr hotel, ate at Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire and loved our time there.
Salmon is one of our hero ingredients this month. If you had half an hour, what would you make with it?
With the heat in the UAE I’d do a beautiful salmon tartare and keep it quite fresh and Asian. I’d lightly salt the salmon for 20 minutes to take out some of the moisture, then wash and pat it dry. I’d dice the flesh into small pieces and add a little bit of soy, pickled ginger, spring onions, coriander, basil and toasted sesame seeds. I’d serve it with a nice mayonnaise, perhaps with some horseradish or wasabi mixed in, to cut through the fresh flavours.
This is our back-to-school issue. Were you a hot dinners or packed lunch kid?
Packed lunch. I was always jealous of the kids who had hot dinners. I was allowed them on Fridays and I felt so cool because I didn’t need my rucksack. I was so free.
Having recently become a dad, what tips can you give new parents struggling to find time to cook?
Rather than thinking ‘what do I fancy for dinner tonight?’ use the weekend to plan ahead. Make a chilli that you can eat with rice, turn into a bolognese for spaghetti or enjoy with a jacket potato. Slow cookers are really good too and it’s also easy to throw together a salad.
You trained with the likes of Gary Rhodes and Gordon Ramsay. What is the best advice you’d give to a budding chef?
Stick at it and never give up. It’s hard work to be at the highest level in this industry, so keep going and aim to be the best.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you like to be?
A superstar DJ – maybe a Tiësto kind of person. As a boy I was so fascinated by the thought of being a JCB driver I got my dad to take me to the JCB factory – I just thought they were amazing.
What do you have planned for the rest of the year?
We’re trying to get permission to put a glass atrium over the outside courtyard of Number 6 and we’re going to turn the upstairs area into a lovely bar. We’ve just opened a new hotel, which is keeping us busy, and in the next 18 months my first cookbook will be released. And of course, I’ll be spending time with my family, which is very important to me.
To read more about Paul and his restaurants and hotel, visit paul-ainsworth.co.uk