Seasoned chef Steve Marsh recently stepped up to the pass at The Pickwick Inn and Oliver’s Restaurant in St Issey. We caught up with the exec chef to find out his grand plans for the seafood hotspot which overlooks the Camel Estuary
Give us the low-down on your career
I started out in the south east of England where I worked at a number of decorated hotels and restaurants.
Around 15 years ago I landed a head chef role at The New Inn on Tresco and that’s where I fell in love with the South West – and my now wife. Since then I’ve worked in some great kitchens including The Idle Rocks at St Mawes, The Greenbank in Falmouth and The Wellington Hotel in Boscastle.
Compared to London, Cornwall’s slower pace of life and abundance of produce makes it a great place to live and work. I grew up on the Kent coast so cooking with fresh fish and seafood was a part of my upbringing, and at The Pickwick I have some of the finest on my doorstep.
What will you bring to The Pickwick?
Traditional fine dining is falling out of favour and customers are now looking for more casual options. I’m using my skills in fine dining to create pub food that wows in a relaxed setting, delivering the best possible versions of classic dishes.
For example, if I’m going to make a steak and ale pie I’ll make the best steak and ale pie possible, which means getting in touch with local specialists such as Ed Hughes at Sharp’s Brewery to find out which beer will best complement the beef from our local butcher.
My first ever cheffing job was for a company that specialises in South Asian food, so there’ll also be a sprinkling of Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese influence throughout the menu.
What will you be cooking with this month?
April is a great time for eating in Cornwall. We’re lucky to have locally landed sea urchin, lemon sole, sea trout and crabs coming into season, as well as spring lamb and suckling pig.
The team and I also like to forage for ingredients when we can and you’ll often discover these hyper-seasonal finds on the daily changing specials. I love to add things like local seaweed to pasta dishes.
I like working with hake, sea bass and clams. They’re all honest fish that cook really beautifully and are of such good quality they only need simple accompaniments. I don’t bother serving them with fussy foams or purees, just good quality veggies from Ross Geach at Padstow Kitchen Garden down the road.
Favourite places to eat out?
For a family day out with the kids, I’d head to Gylly Beach Cafe in Falmouth where head chef Dale McIntosh produces some amazing dishes in a really relaxed setting. If I was taking my wife out for dinner, it would have to be The Shore in Penzance for Bruce Rennie’s brilliant cooking. Ben Prior [formerly of Ben’s Cornish Kitchen] has just opened a new place in St Ives so I’m looking forward to trying that out, too.
Advice for up-and-coming chefs?
Accolades will come but they shouldn’t be something you search for. Listen to your peers and learn from chefs who really care about what they’re doing – solid training and a good foundation will take you far.