We meet the south west’s seafood expert and celebrity chef to talk Devon dining, his latest Rockfish Exmouth restaurant and why Devon is England’s Seafood Coast…
Q: Where did you get your passion for seafood and cooking in general?
Growing up by the sea in Weston-Super-Mare, I guess and being with my grandmother who cooked all the time.
Q: What was the inspiration behind Rockfish?
To make seafood accessible to everyone and fill the gap between top end restaurants and take away chips – we wanted families to enjoy great seafood.
Q: Rockfish Exmouth is the latest opening which we tried last month and loved! Why Exmouth and what makes Rockfish more than just a local chippy?
Fish and chips are at the heart but we have a wide range of local fish and also chargrill and flat grill our fish too, so you can get the catch of the day fried or grilled whatever your preference. You can have unlimited chips too but you could choose to have a salad instead; plus we have some original inventive Rockfish dishes, our tempura veg, our seafood tacos and plenty more! We love being a real part of the neighbourhood, staff who know the town, working with communities (like the fantastic Exmouth Beach Rescue Club) and offering a space to come and enjoy time and good food with your friends & family. Being by the coast is pretty key to us and Exmouth demonstrates that so well, we have boats passing by our windows and water activity constantly, the same at our other restaurants, I love it! I used to also waterski here as a kid and launch our boat off the slipway so have fond memories.
Q: Devon is a county that really celebrates local produce and because of that we have some of the best in the country! What is it exactly about Devon that made you want to bring your enterprise here?
I love it here and we have the best seafood in the world, I call it England’s Seafood Coast; I made my mind up about that after eating seafood from around the world.
Q: Congratulations on winning double at the National Seafish Awards, including the Good Catch Sustainability Award! Could you tell us more about your sustainable work?
I think that working in seafood you have to act sustainably and responsibly – why wouldn’t you? For us it’s just part of what we do, not a tick box, but something vital to the industry, to consumers and to the future of great seafood in the UK.
Q: Where are your favourite places to dine in Devon?
East in the West curry house in Paignton and the Harbour Kitchen in Torquay are great, but there are so many good places in Devon. I’ve just started doing a series of videos on some of my favourite places – watch out for them on our Facebook and Twitter page @therockfishuk!
Q: Will we be seeing you at any Devon food festivals this year?
Yes, Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink, Dartmouth Food Festival and our own Dartmouth & Plymouth Crab festivals.
Q: We loved your TV series with Matt Dawson, are there any plans to see you back on the box?
I loved working with Matt and loved TV but my heart is in my restaurants and being there for my guests so you may see a bit of telly but it’s not where I’m at right now.
Q: Is there anything else in the pipeline?
I’m doing some hosted seafood nights at the restaurants this year – the first one will be in Exmouth Rockfish on 5th April. We’re also refurbishing our restaurant in Plymouth with a new bar, al fresco dining, new chargrill and a new look. Then more Rockfish restaurants is the plan. I just like doing stuff that feels right!
Q: Finally, what’s your favourite quick and easy dish to make at home?
Mash a ripe avocado with cumin, lime, coriander, chopped onion and plenty of salt, spread it on grilled bread then top with a fried duck egg or two and chilli sauce.
Find out more about Mitch online at www.mitchtonks.co.uk