CORNWALL FOOD HEROES: WHY NATHAN OUTLAW WILL NEVER LEAVE CORNWALL
Cornwall’s most famous chef Nathan Outlaw has four restaurants in the county, including the two-Michelin star Restaurant Nathan Outlaw. He tells GARETH REES why he has no intention to ever leave what he says is the most beautiful place in the world
It’s 2.30pm on a Thursday afternoon, and Nathan Outlaw is where he is every Thursday afternoon, at his two-Michelin star Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, which he transferred from its long-time home at the St Enodoc Hotel in Rock to Port Isaac in March. What I’m looking for is being able to continue doing what I do for the next 20 to 25 years, and to make sure that I’ve got piece of mind I decided to put my main restaurant into its own building,’ he says. It’s all about longevity for the chef who says he never plans to leave the county he has called home for 18 years.
Cooking is in Outlaw’s blood. His father is also a chef, and the young Outlaw was buttering toast in Outlaw senior’s kitchen at the age of eight and working professionally by the age of 14. Having gained his culinary qualifications from Thanet Catering College in his native Kent, the 18-year-old moved to London, where he worked with renowned chefs Gary Rhodes and Eric Chavot. I just knew what I wanted to do, and I enjoyed it,’ he says. I’ve never really thought of it as a job, it’s just what I do, you know.’
Within two years, Outlaw was in Padstow working with the man he credits as one of his major influences, Rick Stein, at The Seafood Restaurant. Apart from a brief stint out of the county in his early twenties, to show his Cornish wife, Rachael, “how good she had it”, Outlaw has been dedicated to Cornwall ever since.
I’ve had quite a lot of offers to do different things in other places around the country,’ he says. But when you look out of the restaurant window and you’re looking out over the sea… I’ve travelled around a bit and seen different countries, and I haven’t seen anything quite as beautiful as Cornwall.’
Outlaw now has four restaurants in Cornwall: Restaurant Nathan Outlaw and Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen in Port Isaac and Outlaw’s at St Enodoc Hotel and The Mariners Rock Public House in Rock. He also oversees the Michelin-starred Outlaw’s at The Capital Hotel in London, which he visits on a Monday and Tuesday every fortnight, when Restaurant Nathan Outlaw is closed. But fear not, the big city has limited appeal to Outlaw.
It would be a lot easier to open a restaurant in London,’ he says. But if you were to say to me, “you can open a restaurant in London or you can open a restaurant in Cornwall”, I’d say Cornwall every time.’
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For a man whose life is so intimately entwined with food, it’s obviously not just the beautiful views that keep him in Cornwall. For me, my food is all about Cornwall, the produce of Cornwall. The whole food scene provides me with the ingredients to make my food what it is, so it would be silly to go anywhere else,’ he says. The reason I can do my relatively simple style of food but still get good accolades for it is because of the ingredients.’
Unsurprisingly for a man whose cooking is synonymous with the bounty of the sea, Outlaw says Cornish seafood is the best in the world, but adds that the county is about more than just fish.
What we don’t get enough credit for is the fantastic farming. You look at some of the produce, cauliflower and broccoli, the simple ingredients that are far superior to what you would get anywhere else. The asparagus is amazing. Meat-wise, the lamb and the beef are superb,’ he says.
But the Cornish food scene, which Outlaw says has “improved massively, especially in the last 10 years’, requires more than just world-class produce to thrive. Enter Academy Nathan Outlaw at Cornwall College. Since 2012, Outlaw has been working with Cornwall College to give its culinary students that little bit extra they need to help them get on in what is a notoriously tough industry. Outlaw visits the Academy’s two training restaurants, Trevenson in Camborne and Cloisters in St Austell, eight times during the academic year to teach master classes, as well as welcoming some students into his kitchens for work experience.
The Academy is a confidence builder,’ he says. It’s to give them a foot through the door so that when they leave college they can get a job in the industry. It hopefully improves the [restaurant] industry and the tourism industry in Cornwall by giving the students that extra bit of tuition.’
For the next stage of his mission to celebrate and promote Cornwall, the chef is teaming up with local brewery Sharp’s, launching a cooking competition that asks budding chefs to come up with a dish that either incorporates beer or can be matched with a beer. Anybody can enter and the shortlisted candidates with be mentored by Outlaw at Cornwall College before a winning dish is chosen and added to the menu at The Mariners Rock Public House. It’s a bit of fun, but at the same time brings awareness to the fact that beer really does work with food,’ says Outlaw. Find out more sharpsbrewery.co.uk/competition/cooking-adventure. Other things on Outlaw’s to-do list include working towards earning a third Michelin star for Restaurant Nathan Outlaw (but you can’t count your chickens on that,’ he warns), and completing his third recipe book, Everyday Seafood. Other than that, he’s happy to keep doing what he’s doing in Cornwall.
I could open a restaurant every week, but I have enough on my plate,’ he says. If you had said to me 10 years ago, “you’re going to have five restaurants in 10 years time”, I’d have said no way. I didn’t ever plan for it, and we certainly don’t have a master plan.’
THE story so far
Began cooking in his father’s professional kitchen at eight and has worked in a professional kitchen from aged 14.
Moved to London at 18 and worked with renowed chefs TV regular Gary Rhodes and French Michelin-starred chef Eric Chavot.
Moved to Padstow at 20 and worked under Rick Stein at his Seafood Restaurant in Padstow.
Awarded first Michelin star at 25 after opening his first restaurant The Black Pig.
Opened Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in 2007. He now has four restaurants in Cornwall and oversees Michelin-starred Outlaws at The Capital Hotel in London.
Has held 2 Michelin stars since 2011 . Restaurant Nathan Outlaw remains the only specialised fish restaurant in the UK to hold a Michelin star