My Home: John Burton Race, chef

The chef and restaurateur has lived everywhere from Thailand to Zaire. But after his TV series 'French Leave', he found happiness in Devon
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The celebrity chef John Burton Race lives in Totnes, Devon, with his wife Kim and six children, Olivia, Eve, Amelia, Eliza, Charles and Martha

Ours is a family of nomads: we're always moving around. We came across this part of the world completely by chance. We had been living in France for a year while I was writing a book and being filmed for the Channel 4 series French Leave, and had decided to return to England. I had finished the book and it was important for the children's education to come back, so we headed homewards.

We had let out our house in Oxfordshire while we were away in France, but the lease still had a few weeks to run, so we found ourselves travelling. We had taken a couple of weeks' holiday in Spain, and then got the ferry over from Santander to Plymouth.

As soon as the boat pulled into Plymouth harbour, I thought: "What a wonderful part of the world to live in." It has such a dramatic landscape. I fell in love with the deep hedgerows, quiet lanes and deserted sandy beaches almost immediately. We looked around, and took a cottage in Kingsbridge for a couple of weeks.

Then, so taken was I with the idea of living here, that I decided to buy a restaurant. So, for the past three years I have been running the New Angel, in Dartmouth, which was also featured in a Channel 4 series.

My father was a director of the United Nations, and as a child I lived in many African countries: Zaire, Senegal and Sierra Leone are some I remember well. I was born in Singapore, and have also lived in Thailand. Perhaps that is where my wanderlust comes from, and is one reason why I never feel too happy in one place for long.

Our first home in this area was in Spring Hill, a few miles from here. It was an old Georgian house with six bedrooms. It wasn't perfect when we moved in, but we did do quite a lot of work, and I think once it had all been done my wife got rather bored and wanted to move on. So, after 18 months, we moved here to Totnes. Another reason for moving was to get more space for the children, and it was important to be closer to their schools.

What I love about living here is the seclusion, peace and tranquillity. I work with people all day long, every day, and after that I don't want to see a soul. I just want to hear the wind in the trees, and certainly not any neighbours.

It's a fabulous place to live, and even if I didn't have the restaurant nearby I think that I would still like to live here. The coastline must be one of the most beautiful in the world - and I have lived in many places so I can attest to that. It is a sparkling gem on the English Riviera. The area attracts quite a few interesting people, too. Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz lives a couple of miles away, and Kate Bush has a place not far away.

This place was in a pretty good state when we moved in. The kitchen is one of my favourite rooms. When I come home after being in the restaurant's kitchen all day, I love to have the whole room to myself, and like to concoct a little midnight feast for myself. It is a great place to cook.

We have an Aga, that was already here, and I always find you can make the best roast potatoes with it. It is also rather invaluable for drying clothes after having been soaked in the rain.

I have over 300 cook books which I have been collecting for over 15 years, some of which are on display on the kitchen shelves by the door, the rest are around the house. We also have a Belfast sink that we found in an old salvage yard just above Dartmouth Harbour.

Another good feature of the kitchen is that you can walk directly through to the dining room. So if you are entertaining you can keep in touch with your guests while they are there.

We have a hot tub in the garden, which the children love playing in. When the weather is good I like to take off to the beach, a five-minute drive away, and just go exploring, picking up shells and mussels.

One of my favourite rooms is our bathroom. It has a huge free-standing roll-top bath with silver legs, and it overlooks our garden and 160-year-old monkey puzzle tree. I like to look out on to the fields. There are lots of shells around the edge of the sink and a huge mirror. We have three other bathrooms in the house.

Part of the house can be closed off so that it is a self- contained cottage with its own kitchen, bathroom and two bedrooms. We have never let it out, as we need all the space for the children, but it is a great asset. Mostly, the house is decorated in a warm, slightly rustic style. My wife gets a lot of pieces from the local shops and from markets in France.

If there is a look I cannot stand in interiors, it is the soulless, minimalist chrome and silver that some people overdose on. What I like is big, bold, old and crumbly, with lots of character. If I had loads of money, my dream would be to buy a big country manor, surrounded by land, with some water where I could fish. But I can't see that happening too soon, unless it is in Scotland - that seems to be the last region without huge prices.

I love living here, but it won't be for long, as my wife is already keen to move on. I think another reason we are always on the move is that, as in any relationship, it's not straight-cut - my wife Kim wants to be beside the sea, and I want to be in the middle of a field somewhere. Often, if you've got two people with different ideas, you wonder if you'll ever find the right place. I doubt it - but we can always keep looking.

The New Angel, Dartmouth, Devon (01803 839 425; www.thenewangel.co.uk)

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