Chef of the Week: Jamie Porter – Head Chef at The Old Coastguard in Mousehole, Cornwall

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I have worked at the old coastguard hotel for 6 months…. but before that I did a couple of months at the sister pub Felin Fach Griffin in the Brecon Beacons.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion from cooking came from the very beginning of my career working with Rick Stein, I was fresh out of school and went straight into full time work. If I’m honest the last thing I wanted to do was cook but I was drawn to the camaraderie of the kitchen brigade. My cousin worked at the restaurant so I would visit him sometimes on his break. Once I joined I was obsessed with learning new things and loved working!

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
My favourite thing about being a chef is creativity…. this makes every day exciting for me! Where the restaurant is located in probably the best place we can be (about a mile from the fish market). seeing a dish evolve with the help of my team in a matter of hours really motivates me.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Cornish sea salt –  its the perfect flavour enhancer for what I cook with.

Eggs – they play a huge role in my cooking style, I use eggs to create structure in cakes, mousses, meringues, tarts, bread… and the list goes on.

Egg whites are a great they contain no fat and little flavour so are great for things like meringues and mousses.

Egg yolks are mostly made up of fat and protein so are great to enrich desserts (custard tart my favourite) and also great for emulsifying and thickening sauces such as hollandise & custard.

Vinegar – I use a lot of vinegar in my cooking…. vinaigrettes, sauces, seasoning. for me its important that you buy a good quality vinegar a bit like wine.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
The piece of equipment that I couldn’t live without has to be a Thermomix … for me its the best on the market! and probably my Victorionox pastry knife! I have used this knife since day 1 and I am sure I will never stop.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
The food trend that I am noticing at the moment is a more relaxed style to dining… for me I like to cook for this style of dining and its also my favourite way to eat out.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
The most common mistake that chefs make in my opinion is that they do too much or try to hard with the product…. for example if you have a beautiful bit of fish then it does most of the work for you… just treat it with respect, add a couple of flavours/ingredients that fish will benefit from and cook it right.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
My favourite time of year to cook is spring and summer…. for me this is  when Cornwall comes alive! all of a sudden the kitchen is full of beautiful vegetables that are all local and full of flavour! and all the local fishermen are out catching things like lobsters and spider crabs in abundance… this time of year we will have a fruits de mer on the menu which is a celebration of our wonderful Cornish shellfish.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
The dish I am most proud of?? there are so many but one that stands out for me and is my favourite to eat is probably a John Dory, piperade, pickled dulce, crispy oysters …. piperade is like a slow cooked pepper stew almost cooked for hours with shallots and tomato then seasoned with vinegar and seaweed, and then it has an oyster mayonnaise which we let down with fish stock and make I warm and fluffy and topped with a crispy oyster and oyster leaves. the john dory we just pan fry and leave it slightly pink in the middle.

How do you come up with new dishes?
To create dishes it always starts with the the supplier… usually a phone call in the morning starts the process. we talk about what good for that day for example turbot has just been landed on the market at the right price and quality.. its then at the restaurant within a couple of hours. usually me and the team would throw a few ideas around on what is available that day… then we would trial out some of the components of the dish and then bring them altogether and we would have a dish on that day.

Who was your greatest influence?
My greatest influences in my career are my dad who is a fisherman and installed the be obsessed mentalitiy into me  which I think you need as a chef! also eating the daily catch from his boat when I was a kid subconsciously installed that cooking style in my brain.

Also Stephane Delourme who is the head chef at Rick Steins seafood restaurant…. I worked for him for many years and eventually became his sous chef. I already knew how to cook but he taught me how to become a chef and a leader. He is hands down the best chef I have ever worked for.

Tell us three chefs you admire
Rick Stein… I worked for him for years and wouldn’t be where I am  today if it wasn’t for him

Anthony Bordain- after reading his biography I became a huge fan! RIP chef

David Everitt Matthais – this guys restaurant is my favourite. I have all his books and love his style

What is your favourite cookbook?
Essence by David Everitt Matthias

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Timothy Kendall (head chef at idle rocks hotel) he is a young head chef who is dedicated to his skills

Andi Tuck (head chef at St kew inn) I had one of the best meals I have had in a long time this year at his place

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
I haven’t been but the food looks great bat Barnabys in Padstow… Craig Jefferies is the head chef there and I have worked with him and he is very good.