Interviews

Paul Askew, The Art School

We talk to the chef at The Art School Restaurant in Liverpool

What inspired you to become a chef?
I was lucky enough to travel a lot as a youngster because my father was a Merchant Navy sea captain. On finishing at sea he became an operations director, a job that took us firstly to Liverpool, then London, Dubai and finally Singapore. Memories of the fish market in Dubai and the first spice markets I saw remain with me to this day.

What would you be doing if you weren't a chef?
My other passion has always been sport, and if I hadn’t made a career as a chef, I would have liked to have played rugby at a higher level. I’m still involved in the game today, helping out with my son’s team and coaching them.

At the end of a long day, what do you like to cook?
From my time in New York I can still make a decent deli sandwich from whatever I find in the fridge.

What is the vital ingredient for a successful kitchen?
Team work and the work ethic of the group. There must be a common vision and a common mission. You can’t work with prima donnas in the kitchen. You’re only as good as last plate of food, and the work that goes on behind the scenes is just like the work that goes on at the sports training ground.

What’s your favourite dish on your menu?
I would pick the king scallops with morcilla (Spanish black pudding), with cauliflower purée and Granny Smith salad. I just love the earthy flavours of the cauliflower, the sweetness of the scallops, the salty smoke flavour of the morcilla and the acidity of the apples. It has become a bit of a signature dish for us.

How do you start developing a new recipe?
It’s absolutely ingredient-led. The menus are changed regularly to suit the seasons, what’s available locally and what the producers are saying. We’ll select ingredients at their absolute peak, work in flavours, textures and colours, then look at cookery methods to maximise the elements of those ingredients. One of the things you learn in food culture is that foods that grow closely together also work together – for example, salt marsh lamb works well with samphire or asparagus because they grow in the same place.

If you could cook for anyone (past or present) who would it be, and what would you cook for them?
My absolute food hero is Albert Roux and I’d like to cook for him the scallop dish I mentioned earlier because I’d love to hear his opinion on the flavour combinations.

Who is the most interesting person you have cooked for?
I’ve been very lucky to cook for quite a few famous people – Her Majesty the Queen, Condoleezza Rice and Elton John to name a few. In fact, I've had the opportunity to cook for a wide and diverse range of people – Quentin Tarantino also springs to mind – so it would be difficult to choose just one.

Which chef do you most admire at the moment?
There are so many great chefs internationally, but in this country Simon Rogan and Nigel Haworth have both bought real prominence to the North West.

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