Since I last managed to get to the computer to write a blog, a lot has happened. I can’t believe we’re already half way through the year. I can’t refer to summer as it hasn’t arrived in Cornwall yet! Mind you we did have a few days in June where guests were able to take advantage of the wonderful view across the Camel Valley from our terrace and it was warm enough to have a leisurely lunch out there.
In my last blog, I said that I was about to do something exciting but couldn’t say what. Well, what I did was visit Downing Street. I can remember being taken to see the outside of Downing Street on the usual tourist trip around London as a child but I never thought I would actually go inside…and by invitation!
The occasion was organised in conjunction with the Sustainable Restaurants Association. It was a gathering of chefs from…both the UK including Rick Stein, Raymond Blanc and Michel Roux as well as those who were attending from further afield such as Thomas Keller of The French Laundry and Ferran Adria from El Bulli. I felt honoured to be included in such company and it was a real tribute to see that the industry has been recognised for the way it has embraced sustainability.
However, even more exciting is my recent partnership with Cornwall College to launch Academy Nathan Outlaw. Having been involved with them over the last 8 years, I have come to realise the vital link between our industry and education. Of my 10 chefs, 7 qualified through Cornwall College and they are all skilled, enthusiastic and eager to continue learning. If we are to maintain and improve the standards of culinary expertise in British restaurants, we must nurture our young chefs and hospitality staff.
This September the academy will be open to young chefs who are studying for their VRQ level 3 qualification. They will have to face an interview and skills tests in order to be included in the cohort. The benefit to them will be master class sessions with me and extra visits to producers and suppliers throughout the year. They will also be given opportunities to undertake work experience in my kitchens. I see my commitment to this venture as investment in the future and I must say that I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent with the students down there so far.
Next year, we hope to open up the field in order to include chefs who are studying for VRQ level 1 and 2 qualifications. We also plan to begin including hospitality students. I really want to encourage young people to see hospitality as a worthwhile career. On the continent this has always been the case but for some reason, in the UK we don’t seem to give it any prestige. For those who have the right personality, attitude and skills, hospitality can bring excellent financial reward and job satisfaction. It is also a job market which will increase as people have more leisure time. We just need to raise awareness in the future workforce.
Another thing I have done since last writing is to appear quite a bit on television. First of all, there was Great British Menu and then a couple of appearances on Saturday Kitchen. I really enjoyed being on both programmes. Obviously, I was disappointed not to get through to the Banquet for Great British Menu, but I was pleased to get through to represent the South West in the finals and it was still a good experience. Saturday Kitchen, on the other hand, is always great fun, even if it does mean being up at an unearthly hour because the sleeper train from Cornwall gets in just after 5am!
I was overwhelmed by the number of e-mails and tweets I received following all these appearances. I am always very grateful for the support I receive from people and on these occasions, I was moved by the fact that many of those who got in touch had not even eaten at one of my restaurants but still took the time to send me their thoughts and best wishes. This is the same for those people who have very kindly contacted me to let me know what they think of my book,’ Nathan Outlaw’s British Seafood’, and how things turned out when they attempted one of my dishes. I really do read everything sent to me and I take notice of what is said too. All I can say is many thanks to everyone who has been in touch and please, keep doing so!
Well, despite the dreadful weather, we are in the swing of high season here in Cornwall. Both restaurants are, thankfully, very busy and every member of my staff is doing a wonderful job welcoming our guests. The festival season is underway too and I am going to be returning to some venues and appearing at others for the first time. Next weekend (22nd July) I will be at Port Elliot Festival, and on 5th August I’ll be off to Dartmouth to have some fun cracking crabs with my mate Mitch Tonks at the Crab Festival. There are others, but I’ll tell you about them as they come up…