How we met: Valentine Warner & Nathan Outlaw - 'You really know when he's been in the kitchen, as it looks like a train wreck'
Valentine Warner, 41
Following a brief career as a portrait painter, Warner (left in picture) found work as a chef in a number of kitchens in London, before landing his first job as a TV chef in 2008, presenting BBC2's 'What to Eat Now'. As well as appearing on numerous food shows, he has written five cookery books. He lives in London with his wife and two children
I met Nathan three years ago on a bus, travelling across the Alba countryside in north-west Italy on a truffle-eating week. There were lots of chefs on board – Mitch Tonks, Fergus Henderson, Mark Hix – and it was a very boisterous group.
I'd heard his name a lot and I knew he was an accomplished chef, so I introduced myself; he had an open countenance and gentle warmth, and I liked him straight away. We became firm friends that week; sitting in my bus seat, leaning over the back of the chair, like schoolboys on our way to a match.
Chefs are men of appetites, so I remember the rest of the trip rather hazily; it was a highly boozy, grappa-fuelled few days of vineyards and restaurant visits. We'd pile off the bus, eat a big wobbling plate of bollito misto, pile back on the bus, drink more grappa; all while experiencing a continual snowfall of white truffle on everything.
Afterwards, he invited me to Cornwall to see his restaurant at the St Enodoc Hotel. It was a lovely day of cooking; I showed his guys new things and they showed me some tricks, such as how they salted their fish to firm it up.
Last year I was approached to do a cooking and fishing show [the forthcoming Hook it, Cook it], travelling around Europe and cooking against another chef. So I rang Nathan and asked him to join me. It's rare for me to travel with someone for five weeks and love them more by the end of it. He's not as well-travelled as me, so I loved showing him around places such as San Sebastian, stuffing our faces in tiny tucked-away restaurants. Later I was rung by the programme controller, who asked if we could be slightly more aggressive with one on another on camera, as it was meant to be a competition.
Despite his Michelin stars, Nathan's interest is in the very simple farmhouse food of fishermen and old Greek ladies. A label someone else put on my food is international grandmother, and Nathan's is rather like that, but because of his Michelin discipline, it's presented in a different way. While many chefs compete for the stars to the point of mad desperation, Nathan accumulates them along the way; it's not why he does what he does.
I can't bear that "kill ourselves" nonsense that some chefs have, and Nathan runs a lovely, happy kitchen; he's very clear to his staff about what he wants to be done, but he's very unstressed, which isn't stereotypical; he's a gentle giant. I, on the other hand, would not describe myself as calm; I live off nervous energy and I aspire to be more like him, as if I get annoyed, I let it be known, yet 99 per cent of the time it never really matters.
Nathan Outlaw, 35
After training as a chef, Outlaw worked under Rick Stein at the Seafood Restaurant in Padstow. He was awarded his first Michelin star following the opening of his first restaurant, in 2003, and won his second for the St Enodoc Hotel, in Rock. He lives in Cornwall
We come from different walks of life – Val has travelled the world and is a TV-presenter chef, while I've been glued to a stove for the past 20 years and I'm from a Michelin-star background – and the two worlds don't usually mix. But, of course, we both love food.
We were both on this big chef's trip to Alba to source white truffles in 2011, and we ended up talking a lot about fish: one of my favourite things to do is cure fish, while he's spent time in Scandinavia looking at how curing is done in places such as Sweden, Norway and Canada, for a TV series, which got us off to a good start.
We stayed in touch after that and Val came down to Cornwall to visit a number of times, and we went fishing together. But for me, our most memorable time was when he asked me to take part in Hook it Cook it. We spent several weeks together filming in Europe and it really made us close. It was the most educational trip of my life – fishing, eating, cooking and seeing Europe. Everywhere we went, Val had been before, and he introduced me to little pincho bars in San Sebastian and showed me around parts of the Pyrenees. When I got back, I said to my wife, "I've learnt more [about the world] in two weeks than in the past five years."
One reason he's such a good cook is that he retains so much information; he's like a culinary encyclopaedia. And if he had a restaurant you'd get some of the best food in the country. I know a lot of professional chefs who can't cook as well as he can.
He's definitely messier than me, though. I organise myself a little bit more in the kitchen, but when he's come to visit my restaurant, you really know he's been there, as the area looks like a train wreck – it's amazing! I tend to do the cleaning up after him.
He has a lot of energy, like a Tasmanian devil, and is so committed, but that can translate to being short-tempered. Sometimes I take the mickey about it, but I know when to keep it to myself; it's just fun watching him throw his toys out the pram. Once, when he did a masterclass at my restaurant in London, he was raising his voice in the kitchen, asking where the capers, lemons and herbs were – and they [looked everywhere] until one said, "Chef, you've got them in your hands."
Valentine Warner's five Philadelphia Food Inspirations recipes, marking the brand's receipt of the Good Dairy commendation award, are available at philadelphia.co.uk. Warner's sixth book, 'What to Eat Next' (£20, Mitchell Beazley) is out on 7 April. 'Nathan Outlaw's Fish Kitchen' (£20, Quadrille) is out on 8 May
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