Paul Ainsworth: “Sometimes I visualise what it’d be like to win a second star”

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Chef Paul Ainsworth on writing his first cookbook, why he won’t be opening a place in London any time soon, and his Michelin ambitions

Related tags Paul Ainsworth Chef Cornwall Fine dining Restaurant Cookbook Michelin

The Padstow-based chef and restaurateur on writing his first cookbook, why he won’t be opening a place in London any time soon, and his Michelin ambitions.

You’re about to release your first cookbook, titled For the Love of Food​. Why was now the right time to do one?
It fell into place naturally. In 2011 after I’d managed to get my ‘A Taste of The Fairground’ dessert to the Great British Menu​ banquet there were conversations, but it felt like it would have been a box ticking exercise and I didn’t have anything to contribute beyond that. So much in my life has been hard fought and when it comes it feels right, and there was this moment recently when we met with Harper Collins, and everything clicked into place. The book goes back to when I first wanted to be a chef and follows that journey with recipes from across my career. It’s very reflective of the story of moving to Cornwall, sharing my passion for food, ingredients and cooking. I wanted it to be a genuine timepiece that wouldn’t date, which came from the heart and would be used.

What did you learn about yourself as a chef when writing the book?
One of the proudest things is seeing just how diverse the repertoire is in the Ainsworth collection. I’m so proud that we have three eateries that are so different - the seaside pub (The Mariners Public House in Rock), the more casual Italian Mediterranean restaurant (Caffè Rojano in Padstow), and the fine dining flagship (Paul Ainsworth at No6). No6 is where it all started, of course, and all roads lead there, but those disciplines and flavour profiles we honed there have then bled out into other restaurants. It’s such a diverse market in Cornwall. I love that we can cater for everyone here and I think this book really showcases that.


Were there ever any discussions about doing a Paul Ainsworth at No6 cookbook instead?
In the early days we thought about doing that. But that restaurant has so much left in the tank, it’s still evolving and there’s plenty of time to do that book. For me, it’s something to do further down the line. There are recipes in this book, though, which are part of the No6 story. They include the red onion tarte tatin, which was on the first menu I ever wrote for the restaurant; and the cote de beouf with bacon béarnaise and peppercorn sauce. Its DNA is across the recipes included from The Mariners and Rojano, too. It’s all about following those basic principles of seasoning, acidity and how you attract that flavour.

How is business in Cornwall at the moment?
We’re not immune to the current financial climate, despite what people think. Our customers are also affected by the cost of living and what’s happening in the world. I’m so thankful that we didn’t just stay in that fine dining lane. People are really enjoying more casual dining options now and Rojano and The Mariners are a part of that and are really busy. It’s been a tough start to the year because of the weather, but right now we’re trading well. No6 is fantastic and I’m thankful of how busy we are there as that side of hospitality is really feeling it right now.


Do you have plans for further openings?
At the moment it’s about consolidation. We’re always looking at new ventures and projects and whether they work for us. So many people ask me if I’m going to open in London, and we do do stuff there, but to have a restaurant in the capital and not be able to get there quickly if I needed to is always at the forefront at my mind. We’ve come close, but we’ve never opted to pursue it. We’ve also had offers to take on restaurants in the Middle East and they’ve always been resisted, because it’s about keeping the business tight and consolidated.

No6 has had a Michelin star for more than a decade, are you aiming to get a second?
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a goal, and it has been one for quite some time. It took us seven years to win the first star and for the next few years it was about the appreciation and gratitude of winning such an accolade, but I am ambitious, and I love having a goal. We don’t go into briefing every day and chat about how we’re going to try and win a second star, we don’t have meetings about it, we just know we’ve got to believe in what we do. I have an incredible team around me and together we’re focused on doing the best we can. I run a lot of marathons and I always try to visualise crossing the finish line, and it’s the same with Michelin. I even look at the red plaque sometimes and visualise another star next to it.

For the Love of Food is out now, published by Pavilion Books. RRP: £26

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