How I got to where I am now:
I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a chef, I don’t have one of those romantic stories. At the age of 12 I had four paper rounds, two shifts at a newsagent, five night shifts in a fruit and veg mechants, and a job selling household goods from a catalogue.
My dad was an old-fashioned guy and he had me out working a lot and I had loads of jobs. But I think that’s why I’m where I am now.
When I was about 16 I got a work experience job in a hotel. They eventually offered me the full-time job and I just got sucked in by the atmosphere of the kitchen. I worked there for three years as a young lad. I was always brought up with a hard work ethic and I think that really put me in a good position from really early on.
I always wanted to run my own restaurant. People thought I was crazy when I left Gordon Ramsay, it was a secure job with a great salary and I always had he prospect of opening one of the many other Ramsay venues which have sprung up over the years, but I just didn’t want to do that.
The first restaurant I opened was so far removed from what I’d done previously, it was like something fresh out of Ikea. Long gone were the million-pound chandeliers and the rock star kitchens.
But you have to just work hard and eventually a break came for me when I moved to Padstow and met someone that believe in me. From there, I built my career, but I always wanted to work for myself.
What I love about Padstow:
I knew somebody who knew Padstow very well. The idea was that he’d buy the building (Number 6), renovate it for his son and, as the head chef, I would teach his son to cook. But through various circumstances, his son decided to go onto do another career because of the long hours. So I then called the building Paul Ainsworth at Number 6 and started to rent the building off of the father.
There’s a massive competition in London and at the moment I’m a strong believer in growing on your doorstep. Padstow’s a great place to be, Rick Stein’s proved that – he’s probably one of the most successful chefs in the world and I really admire what he’s done.
The Michelin effect:
Every year I prayed I would do well in the Michelin guide. When it didn’t happen I was disheartened but I just kept going and I believed in myself. I analysed everything, looked at other successful restaurants. A Michelin star really separates you from the rest and lets people know that you’ve got a great restaurant.
The first dramatic business boost for me was entering the Great British Menu– the effect that had on the restaurant was just insane. But the power of a Michelin starwas bigger than Great British Menu. The Twitter messages, the emails, the bookings – it just all went crazy.
I want to now just maintain what I’ve created here; to make sure people agree that it deserves its Michelin star. I’m not about to change my style but I’m going to try and get even more local and even more understanding about the ingredients we use.
One other thing I would like to do next is bedrooms, but I’d want to do them really well with boutique-style rooms. Sat Bains and Tom Kerridge’s rooms are the kind of thing that we want to do in Padstow.
Rojano’s in the Square is just a fun restaurant. Those sort of restaurants in London are huge now. So I also want to continue to develop that in Padstow.
My advice for aspiring chefs:
If you’re going to take a career in hospitality seriously then you have to quickly realise that you’re going to dedicate your life to it.
This is a hard career. I do actually think it’s a lot harder now than when I was growing up. The way the world is now, it seems like young people think they can earn a lot of money quite quickly fairly easily. People coming into this industry don’t seem as willing and I think that’s down to the hours.
You have to just stick yourself in good places. You may well have a hard time and get screamed and shouted at but it’s better to be called a so-and-so than it is to be ignored.
Don’t take the easy route and just try and become a head chef at 20 years old or whatever. Do your time, learn, learn and learn. Take all the things you can from one place to the next.