Nathan Outlaw is The Codfather of the South West food scene, and the only chef with a two Michelin-starred fish restaurant in the world.
With a new outlet in London and another in the pipeline in Looe, plus a second book and a launch in America, he’s scaling the heights in style.
What are you up to currently?
We’re gearing up for the summer, as it’s going to be busy at the restaurants in Rock, and we’re also preparing for the first summer in London. The new Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen in Looe is also in development which will have chef Paul Ripley cooking British seafood tapas. Plus my recipe book is coming out in America and I’m about to start writing the second one.
How is London enjoying the Outlaw experience?
We opened Outlaw’s at The Capital to bring a bit of the South West to London and champion what we do in Cornwall. Although we started off doing a simple style of cooking like turbot on the bone and whole dover sole, we realised the London crowd wants what we do here in Cornwall at the fine dining restaurant, so we’re changing it a little.
With (soon to be) four restaurants, how do you maintain quality and consistency?
We stick to four key things: simplicity – although that doesn’t mean that the way the dishes are cooked is straightforward; originality – each plate of food should be something you couldn’t get somewhere else; quality – which comes from the South West produce, and complexity – in that you shouldn’t be served anything which you could cook at home.
What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
In the UK it was at The Seahorse in Dartmouth, which was about the mix of food and hospitality, and in the world it was at The French Laundry in California. I’m off to Le Bernardin in New York soon which is a three Michelin-starred fish restaurant and I’m also planning to visit Le Petit Nice in Marseille. They are the only three Michelin-starred fish restaurants in the world – and we’re the only two star.
What does a perfect day look like?
I always take the kids to school as it’s the only time I get to see them if I’m working. I just want to cook really, and that gets harder as you start doing more things. A lot of chefs at my stage would be thinking about big TV careers but I just want to do more cooking. I’ve organised the businesses so that I don’t have to get involved in the office stuff, but can spend time in the kitchen doing what I do best.
What do you wish you’d known 10 years ago?
When you first go into the industry you are told to move around to get as much experience as you can, but my feeling now is that you need to find somewhere where you can learn a lot and to stay there longer. I didn’t find that so I moved around a lot. I’d also have travelled more, so now I plan to do that when I’m older – and in style instead of out of a backpack.
When was the most challenging time in your career?
Right now. There are a lot of things going on – we employ over 30 people in the two Rock restaurants alone – and I have to go to London weekly. It’s all doable because of the people I have working with me, especially the head chefs: Paul in Looe, Redas at the Seafood and Grill, Chris at the fine dining restaurant and Pete at The Capital. You can’t move forward without good people and I’ve been working with them for over ten years now.
Early food memories?
Going out with my grandad for traditional fish and chips with a cup of tea and a slice of bread and butter, and visiting the seafood stall for winkles and crab sticks.
Never eat again?
A crab stick. And I never have – and never will – eat a Pot Noodle.
Wednesday night supper?
Toad in the hole, or risotto or something quick. I like to cook nice food at home but I don’t want to hang around.