Origins of Paul Ainsworth

Having perfected his craft in some of UK's most revered kitchens, Paul shares the inspiration behind his imaginative menus – from parents' Seychellois-British fare to trips to New York City and Stockholk

Mum and Dad

Growing up at my parents’ guesthouse in Southampton shaped me for a life in hospitality – they were both very good cooks and Dad was a real taskmaster; he instilled in me a work ethic that I wouldn’t change for the world. Our home was our business, but I really enjoyed it (especially competing with my sister on who could take the most bookings or who had the best telephone manner).

Corned beef

Born and bred in Blackpool, Dad would cook hearty, British fare, from shepherd’s pies, roast dinners and casseroles to this rich beef dish that still stands out to me today – corned beef out of the tin, potatoes, onions, chicken stock and dried thyme baked in pastry, served with pickled red cabbage. Mum, originally from the Seychelles, would take over on the weekends with Creole-style fish curries and herby salads. It was a collision of two hugely contrasting worlds, and I took massive inspiration from that.

The Star Hotel

Just before starting catering college, I landed a job at The Star Hotel on Southampton High Street. They had a proper kitchen with chefs in big white hats, and something just drew me to it. I started off in a blue boiler suit washing up, but I remember the lunchtime bar menu featured this ham and cheese toastie that none of the chefs wanted to make, so I would do it – and it gave me a real sense of fulfilment. Eventually, I got into chef whites

Gary Rhodes

Gary was instrumental in kicking off my professional career in London. He was always so ahead of his time; the level of detail that went on behind the scenes at Rhodes in the Square was staggering. Gary used a lot of ingredients I’d never seen before, and his bread-and-butter pudding absolutely blew my mind – the Madagascan vanilla, the custard, the layers of Demerara sugar... I still cherish that recipe.

New York-style pizza

The menu at Caffè Rojano is influenced by Greek, French and Spanish cuisines and the Italian heritage of New York City – the pizzas there are incredible. A recent visit to Caffe Dante in West Village was behind the name change and refurbishment too.

Gordon Ramsay

Joining Restaurant Gordon Ramsay was like going from the Royal Marines to Special Forces. Gordon was on a mission, the discipline and refinementnext-level,and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I’d do it all again. There are pictures of me with a skull cap on, 19 years old, being shouted at by Gordon, and soon we’ll be standing shoulder-to-shoulder on ITV’s Next Level Chef – he’s opened up these opportunities for me.


The best culinary experience I’ve had in the past decade was at Frantzén, Stockholm, with my wife and Tom and Beth Kerridge; it wasn’t at all what I’d expected. With two Michelin stars at the time, it was a fusion of French cuisine with Swedish ingredients. Each course got me so curious and excited that Tom and I stayed up until 5am talking about it.

The fairground

Nostalgia is a huge source of ideas for me. Childhood trips to the fairground at Southampton Common with my dad inspired my ‘Tale of the Fairground’ dessert, but sometimes the link is more indirect – it could be a thought, a piece of art or a well-loved flavour combination reimagined.

Mother Nature

Ultimately, it all boils down to the produce. When produce is as beautiful as, say, Orkney scallops, tallow-aged Cornish beef or N25 Caviar, Mother Nature has done a lot of the work for us – it’s then up to us to plate up the story and let the flavours shine. It’s taken me a long time to understand that and it’s made everything at No6 feel a little simpler.

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