Mitch Tonks Chefs

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Mitch Tonks

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The seafood maestro talks to Blossom Green about peeling shrimps as a child, the dining scene in his native South-West and where he voyages around the world to taste the very best of the Seven Seas

What’s your earliest food memory? - Peeling shrimps with my grandma in Weston-Super-Mare. She had a little council house and used to send me off for a quarter of brown shrimps. I would take a note from her and stop at the off-licence on the way back for ten Player’s No.10 and some Woodpecker cider. I was allowed to keep the change, so I’d get myself that bright red Corona cherryade to have when I got home.

Who are your food heroes? - Jane Grigson and Elizabeth David, in terms of writing. Today, chefs such as Rick Stein, Mark Hix and Fergus Henderson. Their cookery is an expression of food that is totally different to the Michelin guys.

What seafood should I be cooking now? - It’s crab season. I go for big cock crabs. They’re best smashed open and eaten with mayo and sourdough. Dover sole are also in their prime.

What’s your favourite fish to cook? - Red mullet. I love the texture and flavour: iodiney and saffrony and reminiscent of the sea. I tuck rosemary in its belly and cook with a glass of white.

Who are the best seafood chefs in your area? - Nathan Outlaw does top stuff in Cornwall, as do Stein and Hix in Dorset. However, the most amazing produce comes in to the ‘shacks’ along the seafront. Crab Shack in Teignmouth is a great example – its cracked crab is simply incredible.

What new restaurants do you rate? - I’m enjoying Idle Rocks in St Mawes at the moment. Guy Owen, the chef there, really champions Cornish ingredients. The Harbour Kitchen in Torquay, too. Tom Young is doing interesting things.

Where was your last holiday and where are you off to next? - We went to Piedmont for a long weekend. There were wonderful truffles around and we ate local food such as horse cheek, stuffed agnolotti pasta and pickled veggies with tuna. In a few weeks, six of us are off sailing in Mallorca. We’ll start there and sail to Menorca to go to a restaurant in Mahon called S’espigó. I’ve been eating there for years. Often, though, we’ll get fresh prawns and cook them on the boat drizzled with oil.

Where in the world has best seafood? - The Italian coast, the Balearics and the south of France has a particular quality in the way it’s cooked. However, the best seafood itself is from England’s south coast. The fast-flowing Channel produces wonderful fish, in particular bass and sprat.

Where’s the best place you’ve eaten recently? - I Bologna in Rocchetta in the Italian region of Molise. It’s family run and not at all fancy, the room just wraps its arms around you when you walk in. It has the finest pasta I’ve ever eaten. Dario Cecchini’s Panzana restaurant in Tuscany is also excellent.

This article was published on 20th October 2016 so certain details may not be up to date.

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