‘The New West Country Cook Book’ Launched

On Monday 2nd December, a ‘culinary collective’ of the South West’s top chefs gathered at Watergate Bay for the launch of photographer David Griffen’s The New West Country Cook Book.

The book aims “to showcase the region’s culinary talent and high quality produce through beautiful photography and home-cooked recipes.”

wccb-mick-smith-01David has been documenting the burgeoning food scene in the South West for over 10 years, becoming an influential figure in the industry himself along the way. “Working with David is always exciting and reassuring in equal measure,” said Porthminster Executive Chef Michael Smith. “He is knowledgeable and passionate about food. David’s work shows off each chef’s creativity and individuality, which is what makes this collection of images and recipes so exciting.”

David explained how he first dreamed up the idea of bringing the culinary talent of the South West together. “The idea for the book came from watching the chefs working together at festivals and demonstrations; in quiet moments backstage they were talking as a group and to each other and sharing ideas and experiences – there was a real sense of mutual support.”

The book features recipes from 17 chefs including Nathan Outlaw, Paul Ainsworth, Michael Caines, Mitch Tonks, Mark Hix, Tom Kerridge, Chris Eden and Porthminster’s Michael Smith.

Focusing on key ingredients that can be found or foraged locally, the recipes emphasise the flavours of food in a uniquely West Country style, all of which is captured through stunning photography.

wccb-mick-smith-02Nathan Outlaw, who has won two Michelin stars for his restaurant in Rock, Cornwall, said: “Over the last ten years the camaraderie amongst the chefs of the South West has increased. I enjoy being in the kitchen and cooking with other chefs, and I think it is good for the chefs who work with me to see other styles. It’s great to have these extra influences in the kitchen.”

David added: “The brief given to each chef was the same – no fancy techniques, just honest home cooking, with a focus on the region’s produce.”

Tom Kerridge, who grew up in Gloustershire and runs the two Michelin starred Hand Flowers in Marlow said: “The standard of cooking in the South West over the last few years has risen dramatically, with the increase of a number of home grown South Western chefs opening their own places or becoming head chefs in their own right in some fantastic venues.”


 The New West Country Cookbook is now available to buy at Porthminster Beach Cafe, alongside our very own cookbook.

Food Mag Readers Awards 2014

The annual food Reader Awards are voted for exclusively by the public, so they are a great reflection what is really going on right now in the food and drink scene across the South West.

Food Reader awards logo

In 2013 we were lucky enough to scoop the Best Cafe award, and we promised you we were going to try even harder to impress you this year! So, if you’ve enjoyed visiting us, please take a moment to vote for Porthminster Beach Cafe, either as your favourite restaurant or cafe, we’re not fussy. There are also awards for the best wine list and, don’t tell him we said this, but isn’t it time Michael Smith won Best Chef?!

Voting has opened for the shortlist and closes on November 21st. Then on December 1st the  finalists will be announced in each category and you’ll be able to vote for them until the end of January.

Ladies and gentlemen, cast your votes!

Autumn Forage & Feast Dates Announced

Last spring saw the introduction of our popular ‘Forage and Feast’ days at Porthminster Beach Café, in collaboration with ecologist and forager Caroline Davey of Fat Hen. The opportunity to discover the diverse wild food of St Ives Bay returns this autumn, as new dates have been announced.


On the 4th and 18th November Caroline will once again be guiding small groups, exploring the hedgerows, footpaths and shoreline in the immediate vicinity of the Café. The route reflects the daily incursions of the Porthminster chefs, led by Michael Smith, as they harvest the bounty afforded by their unique location.

Participants will meet at the Café for coffee, before beginning their foray along the beach and coastal path. Botanical expert Caroline will guide the group through the secrets of harvesting delicious wild food full of flavour, whilst keen forager Michael will explain what his chefs look out for as they gather plants, herbs and seaweed from their immediate environment.

“Autumn provides a rewarding range of tastes and textures for the foraging enthusiast” says Caroline, who will be looking out for things like pennywort, sorrel, wood sorrel, nettles, pepper dulse, laver and cow parsley. “This day course is perfect for anyone keen to discover the amazing produce growing all around them, and how to use even just a small touch of these free ingredients to transform the way they cook at home.”

Once back at the Beach Café, Michael will cook up a feast. Using the results of the morning forage, he will create a three course meal. Participants will have the opportunity to see him in action, and learn about the techniques which bring those seasonal ingredients together. This late lunch will be served to the group in the café, overlooking the beach.

Foraging 024

“We forage daily around Porthminster Beach at all times of year,” explained Michael. “Each new season brings its rewards. At the onset of autumn our cooking turns towards warming, earthy flavours and foraging plays a key role in that seasonal shift. Harvesting food from our surroundings has become an integral part of what we do here at the beach and we’re keen to share our passion and give some of our secrets away.”

To book, visit www.fathen.org where you can find a booking form under ‘Courses and Events’.

Course dates – 4th and 18th November, meet at the Café at 10am.

£50pp including coffee and pastries, a two hour forage and a three course lunch.

The Times – 20 best places to eat by the beach

Porthminster Beach Cafe was surprised and thrilled to be included in this feature in The Times (Thurs 8th August). Chosen by top chefs, the places picked from around the coast were a diverse range of architecturally impressive Beach Cafes, old-world pubs and classic brasseries.

Executive Chef Mick Smith and Head Chef Ryan Venning were both very pleased to have been singled out from so many great place to eat by the seaside. Ryan commented “The whole kitchen team work so hard on a day to day basis, especially at this time of year. This kind of recognition has given us a great boost and put a little spring in our step today.”

Here is Porthminster’s entry in full:

Porthminster Cafe

St Ives, Cornwall

“Aussie chef Mike Smith forages on the nearby coastal path for ingredients for his wildly eclectic menu at this casual beach-side cafe that has high culinary ambitions. Feast on air-dried Cornish duck ham with compressed melon, nastursium and fennel followed by a roasted whole lemon sole with white crab and tomato, cucumber and vanilla salsa while taking in the wonderful St Ives bay views.”


Fellow Cornish restaurants The Hidden Hut, Fifteen Cornwall and Outlaw’s in Rock were also included in the list of top spots.

Just Desserts

Our inventive desserts have a bit of a cult following – imaginative, surprising and totally indulgent – it’s always a pleasure to take one of these beautifully presented plates to a table, stand back and enjoy the collective gasp. Time to meet two of the personalities in pastry – Sally & Lucy – and find out what makes them tick….

Homegrown Talent

Lucy Holland is a St Ives girl, just finishing her stint at the catering department of Cornwall College, Camborne, where she recently won Apprentice of the Year for the second time. Lucy has worked with us at Porthminster for four years, starting on a work experience placement. These days Lucy plays a major role in the pastry section, lending her creativity and enthusiasm to the kitchen team. “Walking into a kitchen for the first time as a young trainee is tough – Porthminster is a busy kitchen with a lot of chefs and it’s also quite small and noisy! You have to be able to block out a lot of the background comings and goings and concentrate on your section and prep,” Lucy tells us.

Caramalised Bananas

Caramalised Bananas

The Aussie Connection

Head of Pastry Sally is one of a long string of Porthminster chefs who has come to us thanks to our strong Aussie roots. Sally went through the Australian TAFE College system, and began to specialise in pastry when she finished her training in 2009. “I had always wanted to come and work in the UK, and when friends suggested St Ives I jumped at the chance. I remember checking it out on Google and the next thing I knew I was on the little train along the coast, about to arrive. It was a gorgeous sunny day. I had a trial lined up at Porthminster thanks to Joe and Laurianne (ex-staff members, now of Harvest, Byron Bay). Now I’m in my third season!”

Keeping It Sweet

Lucy, who has been working towards an NVQ3 in Patiserrie, has always known this was where her passion lay. “Pastry is colourful, inventive and there’s a lot of fun to be had experimenting with texture. I love thinking about how the different components of any given dessert will work together, and learning skills like tempering chocolate.” For Sally, achieving technical perfection is important, and her eye for detail is something very special. “At Porthminster we are encouraged to be creative and come up with ideas as a team. Working out how those flavours and concepts will actually come together on a plate is the technical challenge for me,” explained Sally.

Deconstructed Pimms

Deconstructed Pimms

Location Location….

Like the rest of the kitchen, the pastry section use ingredients grown in the Porthminster garden and foraged from the surrounding area. “We’re using lots of elderflower at the moment, as it’s just about to go over,” explained Sally, “as well as berries from garden, rhubarb and edible flowers. That’s one of the best things about working here – you pick things from the garden and literally use them straightaway. It’s very inspiring and we’re constantly getting ideas from what grows around us.” Lucy shares this fascination with seasonal ingredients, whilst also finding inspiration from her family. “As soon as I was tall enough I was cooking with my Mum and Nan. That was my early inspiration. I keep a book at home full of ideas – it’s got pretty big!”

Team Effort

As well as Lucy’s bold creative ideas and Sally’s elegant technical prowess, the pastry team benefits from the experience of both Michael and Ryan, Exec and Head Chef respectively. Many of the classic Porthminster desserts, such as Deconstructed Pimms and Caramelised Bananas have been honed and perfected over years, and the task is to get them out just right each time. Other new dessert specials, such as the Jaffa Cake Special, are joint efforts. Ryan and Karen (another member of the pastry team) collaborated to create a new take on the Malva pudding, a South African favourite, in this case made with the addition of orange and served with vanilla ice cream coated in chocolate, with a Cointreau gel.

Onwards & Upwards

Both Sally & Lucy have big plans for the future. Both design and make unique cakes to commission (contact info@porthminstercafe.co.uk to find out more). Whilst Sally is looking to attend more specialist courses in London on cake design, Lucy is keen to head off travelling and gain experience working in different kitchens around the world. Ultimately however, she would like to return to St Ives and open her own dessert & cocktail bar which we’re sure will be a massive hit!

Lucy (left) & Sally (right)

Lucy (left) & Sally (right)

Meet our Head Chef, Ryan Venning

Having worked at Porthminster Beach Café in the past, as well as on other projects alongside Executive Chef Michael Smith, we were thrilled to welcome back Ryan Venning as Head Chef at the start of the year.

Now that he’s well and truly settled back in, we thought it was time to introduce him properly, so here goes….

Where did you start cooking?

“I grew up in Durban, South Africa. I started training at the 5* Royal Hotel, which sleeps 2,000 people! It was an incredible 3 year apprenticeship. The hotel had its own butchery as well as an enormous grill department and a vast pastry kitchen. The hotel hosted important functions, including several gala dinners for the President with 1,200 guests. It was a good grounding in all aspects of cooking. After I qualified I worked in some brilliant smaller places, including a gastro pub and a buzzing Cafe which specialized in outside catering, and a grillhouse where we aged our own meats.”

How did you end up in St Ives?

Cooking demo at Fifteen Farmers Market...

Cooking demo at Fifteen Farmers Market…

“I met Mick (Smith) when he was on holiday in Cape Town. He’d been in St Ives a few years by then and was loving it. It sounded like the perfect place to come and cook in the UK – I was happy to bypass London! In a few months I was here; I started at Porthmeor before working with Mick at Porthminster and later becoming the Head Chef at Porthgwidden (Porthminster’s sister restaurant). From there I went as Head Chef to The Herring at Bedruthan Steps Hotel, before returning to my roots here on the beach.”

You arrived in Cornwall eight years ago, and it seems the attraction hasn’t diminished?

“Certainly, I still love it just as much as when I first arrived! Don’t get me wrong, as chefs we do work very, very hard. The hours are long and unsociable. But in Cornwall a positive work/life balance is just that bit easier to achieve. I don’t have to commute to work and I have the beach and countryside right on my doorstep whenever I get a chance to get out there. For me there’s always something different and essential about being by the ocean. It’s a lifestyle I wouldn’t be without, especially now I have a family. Surfing, cooking and my family are my inspiration – not in that order! Being based in the UK has allowed me to travel to places like Morocco and Portugal. Looking for new waves and new food experiences is a great combination.”

In terms of being a chef, what is it that’s unique about working here?

A trip to the garden before service....

A trip to the garden before service….

“For me, the UK in general has four distinct seasons which we just don’t have back in South Africa. This keeps your creativity flowing; there’s always new produce coming into season which is really exciting. Cornwall in particular of course has the best seafood in the world! As well as that, we enjoy an abundance of foraged produce throughout the year. Spring I think is my favourite time for the great variety of local ingredients which come through the door – everything is so fresh it’s impossible not to be inspired.”

Do you find it a challenge leading the kitchen at Porthminster?

“It is a challenge, but it’s a good one. My experiences as Head Chef elsewhere have taught me a lot and they have all been positive stepping-stones. The team here are fantastic – you need to have that behind you in order to create great food, especially during the summer season when cover numbers are so high. I’m finding real satisfaction in coaching the younger members of the crew; I think even more experienced chefs feed off that sense of discovery and learning we see in our apprentices. And at the end of the day our location is unique and inspirational. We’re privileged to work on a beach with this stunning view, and I genuinely think that is reflected in what we create everyday.”

Read more about Ryan and Michael’s favourite seasonal ingredients in our Summer at Porthminster blog feature, coming soon….