In our view, Paul represents everything that is best about the UK restaurant industry. He did the hard yards and learned his trade under Ramsay at Hospital Road (back when Gordon actually cooked there), he then did his own thing with Number 6 in the not so obvious location of Padstow and made it a national success, but more than anything else perhaps, he cares. He cares about his customers and food of course, that's a given, but he also cares passionately about his staff (who all clearly adore him) and he cares about his suppliers, not only as suppliers, but as people.
For our part, after 2011, we had not intended to do more of our Chef Dinners, but having become involved with The Manna Society, a day centre for the homeless, at the start of 2012, we knew that our dinners were the best way to raise much needed funds for them. As soon as we had decided to again host them, top of our list of chefs we wanted to cook was Paul Ainsworth; we were beyond thrilled when Paul said yes. With busy diaries, the dinner ultimately got bumped into 2013 but what a fabulous way to start the year.
A special mention is needed too for four organisations that have helped make all the dinners happen over the past year. Those companies that have so generously stood behind our dinners are: exceptional cutlery from Robert Welch, beautiful plates from Goodfellows, and two essential chef/kitchen aids: Pacojet from ChefTools and Thermomix from UK Thermomix. Without their support, these dinners would not be what they are.
Also helping us raise money for the charities are the restaurants who have donated tables for the auction prizes. This time round we generously received help from Koffmann's, Goodman steak house, Charlotte's Bistro Chiswick, Lumiere in Cheltenham, The Ship Wandsworth and The Elephant in Torquay.
a day probably doesn't go by when i am not asked, "where does the inspiration and thought come from when you create a dish?" our menu will take you through this ever evolving process of creativity. ten dishes that tell...
We start with some canapes that includes ever popular crispy chicken skin and cod's roe, confit Red Duke potatoes with chorizo and chive, and a mini pain au pudding. There's butter too, wrapped in truffle, and a generous bread basket. Following that, the menu starts in earnest.
A beach scene is lovingly recreated twelve times over with Cornwall's own golden sand. Some pebbles, fisherman's netting and seaweed, and Padstow is lovingly recreated round the table for as Paul says 'across the rocky beach in Porthilly are the most amazing oysters'. Deep fried and sitting on fennel and apple with a slice of salami on top, this is a dish that visitors to Cornwall, many whom might never have eaten an oyster before, can more easily approach. There's freshness and acidity from the salad, fatty umami from the salami and the wonderful crisp coated oyster that all comes together in a few bites of brilliance.
And if that weren't enough, The Harbour Brewing Company provided a very special chocolate & vanilla stout to pair with the pudding... in a 3 litre bottle, complete with special label (pictured below). We love beers here at CC headquarters and we are honoured that the Harbour Brewing Company created something so special for us and our guests.
This was another GBM inspired dish with the gold covered chocolate torte revealing its secret when a hot caramac sauce is poured into the centre: the gold disc (Olympic gold medal) just melts away giving you a chocolate pot of the childhood candy bar inspired sauce. The pistachio cake and sorbet that come with it are a little more grown up, but this is a fun dessert, and a chocolate lover's heaven.
There are two other things that are always mentioned at this stage of our post. First, with the food now served, it's time to open the Glenfarclas, and on this occasion, a 30 year old single malt. We've enjoyed Glenfarclas at every one of our dinners thanks to the generosity of George Grant and the distillery and on behalf of all the guests over the past two years, a huge thanks to them for that. Do follow them on Twitter @Glenfarclas.
Second thing to mention is that these dinners are always a team effort, and Paul's team is a fantastic group of people. Head Chef John Walton and Sous Chef Chris McClurg joined us for the entire weekend prep'ing for the meal ahead of the rest of the team's arrival, and it was a pleasure to welcome them to our flat. Alex Tozer, FOH manager at Number 6 is an exemplary professional who put together some fabulous drink pairings and committed so much more than 100% to ensure the evening was perfect on the night. Every one of Paul's team, like Paul himself, represents all that is good about the industry.
Also helping Alex with the drink was Ellis Wharton Wines and Wadebridge Wines, and our thanks to them, the drinks were spectacular.
It was Epicurus who was reported to have said, 'we should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink, for dining alone is leading the life of a lion or wolf'. Indeed, our dinners only have value because of other people, here's a few snaps of a few of the wonderful people who were present that day.
Opening the Goody Bags, it felt like Christmas all over again and a huge thank you to all who helped here. Angela of Number 6 put the bags together and contributions included goodies from RNLI, Robert Welch, a fused glass coaster from Jo Downs, chocolate from Damian Allsopp, sea salt chocolate from Kernow Chocolate (which I'm eating as I write and it's very good indeed), herbal products from St Kitts Herbery, all of course from Cornwall, and a late surprise, more chocs from Playboy Club London (thanks Judy Joo).
In 2012/13, we hosted three amazing dinners from three of the country's leading chefs: Paul Ainsworth, Simon Rogan and James Knappett, and we were delighted and proud that we could unite them together for Paul's dinner. Even more proud to say that combining the amounts donated directly to Manna Society, a cheque to be presented to RNLI at the end of this month and gift aid claimed, the hard work of Paul, Simon and James has raised over £20,000, making a huge difference to the charities involved.
Actually, there is one last thing to say: get involved with a charity that means something to you. Whatever you do, at whatever level, your effort makes a difference. And we know for sure, your efforts will be thoroughly appreciated by whatever charity you choose to support; is there a better way to spend your time? That's all from us.