Pearls of Wisdom: Paul Kitching

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cook

Paul Kitching, chef-proprietor of Edinburgh's 21212 restaurant
Paul Kitching, chef-proprietor of Edinburgh's 21212 restaurant
Paul Kitching opened the Edinburgh-based restaurant-with-rooms, 21212, two years ago, winning a Michelin star just eight months later

A star is a good way to justify ourselves in Edinburgh​ because it gave us a bit of our Juniper credibility back; we’re not a bunch of jokers who have spent a fortune on some place serving weird food.

It’s settled down now staff-wise.​ People understand what I’m trying to say to them, which is actually very little because I can’t be bothered with all that yes chef, no chef stuff.

My partner Katie reads all the blogs.​ People leave the restaurant at 11.30pm and by midnight they’ve written 18 paragraphs. They’re supposed to be getting drunk and having a great time, but people are writing things down. They split so many silly hairs. Katie says don’t read them, so I don’t.

I’m practically a vegetarian.​ I will taste meat occasionally, but I’d rather eat a bowl of peas. It’s not an ethical thing, but it’s just not for me.

We’ve had some pretty good chefs that have left us​, and that’s because they’re from a Gordon Ramsay bash-you-in-the-face background. They want to be angry, and angry chefs cook angry food.

We’re very disciplined​, but nobody shouts and screams here. And you won’t see a cleaner kitchen.

I want to do a big poncey arty book.

I’m working with some simple ingredients​ that I’ve never worked with before, including paprika and sweet potatoes – both things that the chefs I worked with before never really used.

I tend to throw myself in the deep end.​ I don’t experiment first, but it normally all works out. I’m an instinctive cook.

We don’t use any new techniques such as waterbaths and Thermomix.​ I don’t have anything against them. It’s just not my thing.

My chefs change their phones every week for the latest thing.​ I don’t have a phone; I don’t even have a credit card. I like it that way. I’d rather read a book or watch a documentary.

I’ve known Katie, my partner, for 18 years.​ She still hasn’t made me a cup of tea.

I became a chef because I was an unemployed labourer.​ Before that I did art. I wasn’t very good, but I liked the shapes and colours. Having the knowledge and intelligence I hope I have now, I would have stuck with the art. I wouldn’t do it over again.

We row our own boat.​ I don’t look to other restaurants and chefs for inspiration.

Claude Bosi is the only chef I’m jealous of.​ He’s that good. The food at Hibiscus is completely different from anyone else’s.

We’ve fallen into a category that I’ve never wanted to be in​, but there’s very little I can do about it now. You either love us or hate us. We’re Marmite.

There are a few ingredients I think are a waste of time​, such as crab, sea urchins and lobsters. I’d love to put them on the menu, but I’m too lazy.

My approach to cooking?​ A lot of things in a bowl. It’s multi-layered, but it’s not trying to be clever. But we do work hard at it – that’s my nature.

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