It’s Official: Our Executive Chef is Food Hero of the Year!

The Cornwall Life Food & Drink Awards, which celebrate the county’s food and drink champions, were presented at a celebratory event at Carbis Bay Hotel on 1st November and we are pleased to reveal that our Executive Chef, Michael Smith, was amongst the winners!

After fifteen years at the helm here at the beach, Michael was named ‘Food & Drink Hero’ of 2018. This award is reserved for an individual who “goes the extra mile to promote Cornwall to a wider audience and is passionate about local produce throughout.” The winner of this prestigious award must also be someone who truly champions the vibrant local food scene and who has helped make a positive difference to their team, community and the food and drink industry as a whole.

Carol Burns, Editor of Cornwall Food & Drink presented the award, and said in her speech:

“Cornwall is not short of incredible food and drink and chefs that know how to use them. Michael Smith perfectly reflects Cornwall’s attitude to food – creative cooking and original dishes, incorporating the best of our local seasonal produce, and all in a very relaxed inclusive atmosphere that makes the most of the beautiful views on offer in one of Cornwall’s favourite harbours.”

Carol noted several key factors in naming Michael as this years’ winner. For example, he was one of the first chefs in Cornwall to feature foraged ingredients in his dishes on a regular basis, and has invested a great deal of time and effort in establishing a kitchen garden opposite the restaurant. By training new chefs in foraging and caring for the garden, he actively spreads this knowledge and passion for the wild and home-grown ingredients which flourish in our coastal environment.

Michael has also been proactive in promoting sustainable seafood and supporting charitable causes such as The Fisherman’s Mission. He is responsible for dreaming up Porthminster Beach Café – The Cookbook, a collection of signature recipes, and has been a driving force behind the St Ives Food & Drink Festival, which is held on the beach outside the restaurant each year.

It has been such a memorable year here at Porthminster, and this award has been the icing on the cake! Thanks to all those who have played a part in our success – including the whole team and all our fantastic customers. We look forward to celebrating with you soon!

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Chefs Reunited!

This year the St Ives Food and Drink Festival reunites Michael with a chef he worked with many years ago and many miles away – the other side of the world in fact.

Our Exec Chef Michael Smith is originally from Victoria, Australia, where he trained at Donovans – a much-loved and highly acclaimed Italian restaurant on the beach-front in the trendy St Kilda area of Melbourne.

Michael’s mentor in the pastry section was Helen Goh, who he remembers as endlessly imaginative and intensely hard-working. She inspired a deep respect in the young chef for the work involved in the pastry section, and for the endless possibilities of creating desserts and cakes which were both beautiful to behold and devour. This manifested itself in the ‘Sweet’ section of Michael’s own recipe book, Porthminster Beach Café – The Cookbook, published in 2013.

Although the two lost touch, Helen also moved to England and has worked closely with Yotam Ottolenghi as the lead product developer for the past ten years, drawing widely on Asian, Western and Middle Eastern influences – and of course, on her love of sweets.

In the stunning new baking and desserts cookbook – Sweet – Helen and Yotam bring the Ottolenghi hallmarks of fresh, evocative ingredients, exotic spices and complex flavourings to indulgent cakes, biscuits, tarts, puddings, cheesecakes and ice cream.

Michael and Helen will be reunited for the first time at the St Ives Food and Drink Festival, which takes place at Porthminster Beach from 11 – 13th May. For more information on demo times visit www.stivesfoodanddrinkfestival.co.uk.

Meet The Gardener

Executive Chef Michael Smith introduces our very talented professional gardener, Polly Carter, who is responsible for bringing that extra touch of seasonal colour and flavour to many of our dishes…

Michael: “From my early days here at Porthminster Beach Café, I dreamed of creating a coastal kitchen garden. There was a plot I had my eye on directly opposite the restaurant; it was on quite a steep slope and the area was bisected by an off-shoot of the coast path, but I couldn’t help wonder whether one day we could transform it into a fabulous source of flavour and colour for our dishes.

“Luckily for me, around 8 years ago the parents of one of our young apprentice chefs – Jim and Julie Horn – were both passionate and knowledgeable gardeners. I craftily planted the seed of the idea and they ran with it, clearing, weeding and terracing the plot to make way for fresh herbs, fruits, edible flowers and vegetables. Over the years several dedicated gardeners have been charged with its upkeep and development. That task currently rests with Polly Carter, a freelance gardener whose training includes a National Trust traineeship in Heritage Horticulture (including kitchen gardening).

“Kitchen gardens are relatively common – at country house hotels for example where they have plenty of space and existing in-house gardening skills. I don’t know of any other restaurant gardens quite like ours, and it certainly presents its own challenges, as Polly explains:

Polly: “The plot here is north-facing, but sheltered and protected from frost by its proximity to the sea. The soil is relatively poor (we are working on enriching it this year using a homemade compost combining seaweed from the beach and comfrey). There are two distinct areas; the lower half gets plenty of sun, so we grow Mediterranean plants and herbs there; further up in the shade we’ve planted fruits and also encourage things like ramsons (wild garlic), sorrel and horseradish. These crops support the chefs foraging efforts – they like to pick wild food from the surrounding area, but we also propagate what we can to give their legs a rest!

“The biggest challenge is ensuring that the garden is productive all year round, so that Michael and his team can find fresh flavours and inspiration in this little plot, week in week out. I focus on crops which regenerate and benefit from being cut regularly, and I also sow the same seeds over successive weeks to make sure they are replenished ready for those scissor-happy chefs! We don’t have much room, so every tiny area yields something useful, and I under-plant wherever I can.

“Michael is adamant that everything must add something to the dish or drink (some of the flowers and leaves are used in cocktails or as fresh teas) so I’ve developed the garden by focusing on flavour, not just adornment. Although I do think it is still a thing of beauty, especially in the summer. In fact, the view from here is probably the best in all of St Ives!”

The following, amongst others, can be found in the garden: Tagetes (the edible petals and leaves have a pronounced fruity  flavour), Borage, Broad Beans (apparently the shoots are good when stir-fried), Courgettes (mainly used for the flowers, which are stuffed with various good things and deep-fried), Blackcurrants (the chefs use the leaves like vine leaves) , Gooseberries, Nasturtiums, Calendula, Eciums (good for bees), Thyme, Olive Herb, Black Mustard (a common weed which is encouraged in the garden because of its strong, punchy flavour), wild strawberries, watercress and various types of sorrel. There are also pear, apple and crab apple trees – the chefs use the blossom as well as the fruit.

Michael – “To a certain extent, having a kitchen garden dictates the flow of the menu. It means that we naturally take our lead from what is in season; our chefs get quite excited when something new is ready to pick!”

Meet The Fish Merchant

Executive Chef Michael Smith introduces fish merchant Matthew Stevens; the two have been working together to bring the best seafood to your table here at Porthminster for 15 years…

Michael – “It’s hard to believe that 15 years have passed since I arrived in St Ives via the branch line from St Erth – as soon as the train rounded the bend I knew I had found somewhere special. I had been working in London and missed the outdoor lifestyle and beaches of Victoria, where I grew up at the end of the Great Ocean Road. I’d heard about this mythical place in the UK, where the surf was genuinely good, the beaches were actually sandy, and the local produce was top class; Cornwall surpassed my expectations on every front.

“I feel so lucky to live and work here – especially as the restaurant is right on the beach. Seafood is the major focus of our menu, combined with produce grown in our garden and foraged from the coastal surroundings. A lot of our dishes have an Asian influence, as the fresh zingy flavours of Asian cuisine work really well with the bounty of fish and shellfish available to us.

“I’ve been working with Matthew Stevens since I started at Porthminster and I speak to him or one of his colleagues every day. They understand our specifications when it comes to quality and filleting, and they know we are always keen to fill our daily specials with less regular catches like turbot, John Dory and red sea bream.”

Matthew – “Every time I visit Porthminster Beach Café I’m impressed by the creativity and intricate techniques Michael and his team use to showcase the huge variety of seafood they take from us.

“We supply Michael with virtually every kind of fish and shellfish found in Cornish waters, including oysters, lobsters, brill and several varieties of sole. We’re up and down that hill several times a day in the summer – luckily we are based just a mile or so away! We also supply fresh Cornish fish for the award-winning fish and chips in the takeaway; I think it’s fantastic that such a busy operation still uses the best fish and doesn’t skimp on quality.

“The fact that Michael has been at the helm for so long means that we have a great understanding, and hopefully that has helped him deliver the outstanding fish dishes he produces day in day out. Despite his seniority and managerial responsibilities he can still be found behind the pass most days – he clearly loves being in the thick of things.

“If chefs or journalists come to visit me from elsewhere in the UK I often take them to Porthminster, it’s such a special spot – you just can’t beat a beautiful piece of fish and a glass of chilled white wine served on the terrace!”

Win A £100 Voucher

Do you have a favourite recipe from our cookbook?

If so we’d love to see your versions of our signature dishes, whether you stick to the recipe faithfully or give it your own twist!

Next time you cook your favourite take a quick pic and send it to us via email (pminster@btconnect.com) or social media (using the hashtag #MyPorthminster).

At the end of April our Executive Chef Michael Smith will choose his favourite entry – the prize is a £100 voucher to spend on food and drink here at the cafe. Happy snapping!

Our Executive Chef Celebrates 15 Years At The Helm

Michael Smith, our Executive Chef here at Porthminster Beach Café, is celebrating the start of his 15th year of beach-side cooking.

Originally from Victoria, Australia, Michael came to Cornwall in search of a great food scene and Britain’s answer to the beach lifestyle; he fell in love with St Ives and has made it his home.

Michael recalls: “I was working in London and I kept hearing about this mythical place with amazing produce, sandy beaches and decent waves – I didn’t believe it until I saw it for myself! I knew St Ives was special as soon as the train rounded the bend and I caught my first glimpse of the town.”

The talented young chef was quickly recruited by the owners of Porthminster Beach Café, who recognised the time was right to take the food at the white-washed, art deco-style eatery up a notch or two.

Chefs are known for being a peripatetic bunch, but not Michael, who over the years has worked to make his chosen workplace a well-loved food destination with an international reputation; he has remained a constant presence in the kitchen throughout.

Following in the footsteps of Rick Stein, Cornwall’s original food hero, Michael put fresh local seafood centre-stage, adding his own twist with recipes and ingredients inspired by Australia’s Pan-Asian cuisine, his experience of working in top Italian restaurants, and his surf-driven global travels.

Taking advantage of our restaurant’s unique location, he helped create a coastal kitchen garden, and was one of the first chefs in Cornwall to introduce foraged ingredients into his menus.

In 2006, Michael helped the public gain an insight into the life of a busy restaurant kitchen in the series Beach Café, which aired on Discovery’s Travel & Living Channel.

He is also responsible for dreaming up Porthminster Beach Café – The Cookbook, a collection of signature recipes, and has been a driving force behind the St Ives Food & Drink Festival, which is held on the beach outside the restaurant each year.

Cornwall’s growing attractiveness as a year-round destination – partly fuelled by a buoyant food culture – now allows us and other restaurants to stay open all year, providing steady employment and career progression for hospitality professionals.

Michael has no plans to take a step back, saying: “I want to be here for another 15 years; it’s a fantastic place to live and work.”

He added: “Despite my management responsibilities, I still get to cook almost every day. There will be challenges in the years ahead, but I’m excited about what the future holds for Cornwall’s food scene.”

Dine With Bordeaux At Porthminster

Saturday 28th October, Porthminster Beach Cafe 

£55 for five courses, including wine

The latest in our series of wine dinners takes us to the most famous vineyards and chateaux of the world, as Nigel Ede from Experience Wines guides us through the iconic wine styles of Bordeaux.

We devised five inventive courses and set Nigel the challenge of matching them – we think you’ll agree that the results are mouth-watering!

From sparkling Cremant to lively and complex whites, classic heady reds to sumptuously rich Sauternes, this will be a delectable evening of food and wine.

Please see below a provisional menu – there may be some small alterations to both food and wine depending on last-minute availability.

To book please call 01736 795352. Spaces are limited so be quick!

We will be taking card details to secure your booking. Late cancellations will incur a charge.

 

Arrival

Smoked Cod Roe

Cucumber – Caviar

Les Cordeliers Cremant de Bordeaux Brut, Bordeaux 

Starter

Ginger Cured Monkfish

Hyssop – Nectarine – Yoghurt

Château Tourteau Chollet ‘Elegance’ 2015, Graves Bordeaux 

Fish Course

Cornish Sea Bass

Shrimp – Yuzu Butter – Pork Puffs – Sesame – Wild Sorrels

Caillou Blanc du Château Talbot 2013, Bordeaux Blanc

Sorbet

Crab Apple Sorbet

Meat Course

Pink Roasted Venison Fillet

Suet Pie – Celeriac – Spiced Spinach – Bitter Cacao Sauce

Château De Fonbel 2013, St. Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux

– 

Dessert

Manuka Panacotta

Rum Fig – Dehydrated Honey – Yoghurt

Château Petit Vedrines 2014, Sauternes, Bordeaux