Chatting about his new recipe book – Nathan Outlaw’s British Seafood – in his unpretentious Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, he asserts: “I didn’t want to do a cheffie book. I wanted to avoid all the stereotypes of fine-dining and just make good food, good fish, accessible.”
This is a guy who’d personally rather eat in his Seafood Grill than in his fine-dining restaurant – because this is where he feels comfortable: “Food is about relaxing with friends – you shouldn’t have to worry about it.”
And that’s what his restaurants and recipes aim to do: make food of the fish variety accessible and tasty.
Outlaw’s CV is a testament to game-changing and he admits that “contentment is a dangerous thing because you slow down.” Keeping an impressive career pace has meant he owns the only two-star fish restaurant in the country and can now set his own terms. He exudes uncomplicated passion and a drive to avoid the doldrums of the derivative: “We study, research it, and then do it better than anyone else.”
The collective pronoun – ‘we’ – crops up a lot during our interview: this is not a chef on an ego trip. The Outlaw meritocracy is further evidenced by the fact his sommelier and front of house blog regularly on his site, and that he becomes fantastically animated discussing a project to develop the kitchen teams of the future through the development of an elite academy for young Cornish chefs.
Outlaw’s food and his restaurants are not pretentious – they are accessible; grounded in a belief that everyone can eat good fish and love it. His prominent media profile – TV, his blog, his book – are simply conduits to promoting this ideology.
Just as his restaurants are not about covers, his career is not about competition. It’s about a community enjoying food. He sees chefs working in harmony – a belief evidenced in his impressive Master Class season. Here, his fellow chefs’ styles complement, rather than compete with, his – landing you hook, line and sinker in love with fish.
Although Padstow – just across the shifting sands of the Camel estuary – could provoke the competitive spirit in a culinary stand-off for covers, there’s still no hint of the cut-throat – particularly when it comes to Rick Stein: “Rick is as close to a hero as chef can be: he’s the reason I’m passionate about seafood.” A passion evidenced in the new book – to which Rick has written the forward and, in the tradition of the best cookbooks, is a source of information – and homage to – produce and process as well as recipes.
Outlaw seems to be the conductor of the Cornish culinary community but is also unswerving in his commitment to customer, catch and his craft. Facts that should see this cook – and his book – strike a chord with the whole country.
Nathan Outlaw’s British Seafood – Quadrille Publishing Ltd
Buy tickets for Nathan’s Master Class Season at: http://www.nathan-outlaw.com/master-class-season-2012/
To read more Eating & Drinking reviews from the Good Cornwall Guide click here.