Image for blog - Chef and seafood expert Mitch Tonks talks fish and kitchens… Image for blog - Chef and seafood expert Mitch Tonks talks fish and kitchens…
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Chef and seafood expert Mitch Tonks talks fish and kitchens…

Publisher - Great British Food Awards
published by

Great British Food

Mar 05, 2016
6 minutes to read

It’s no secret that Mitch Tonks knows his seafood. Between running an array of fish-focused restaurants, releasing a new book of recipes and sourcing the most outstanding ingredients possible, he managed to find the time to speak to GBF about all things oceanic!

I’m not a great fisherman, I just enjoy sitting on the bank with a beer! I love to go out fishing and I tend to catch easy things like mackerel and bass – if I catch half a dozen mackerel, that’s me sorted. I’m always excited to try strange and interesting seafood though – the most unusual dish I have ever eaten was a bit of cod sperm in Chicago! It was so odd and tasted very, very fishy. I’ve eaten lots of peculiar sea creatures, some of which I’d never seen before in my life!

Lots of restaurant operators close during the winter, and just want to take money during the summer – I don’t agree with that approach. I think all restaurants play a role within the community and this is something I feel very passionate about. We love engaging with customers and sponsoring local events and try to get involved with as many regional initiatives as possible. Many of my restaurants are based in fantastic tight-knit towns; I see it as my responsibility to remain open during the winter as there are still people who need to work and customers who want to dine out in the colder months.

I’ve really gained a taste for beer as of late. I love what the Harper Brewing Company is doing at the moment, and Padstow Brewing Company which come up with some amazing ales. I’m also interested in lots of the London breweries – there’s such a fantastic scene flourishing there. I’d absolutely love to set up some sort of craft beer and seafood operation. We actually make some of our own alcoholic tipples – we have Tonix wine and create a cider with a producer down here in Devon called Ashridge. However, beer is the next thing we want to try out – we’re currently looking for a brewing partner to help us.

Dining out came of age years ago and now visiting restaurants has become a part of everyday life. The casual dining market is great, you can eat just about anything you could possibly want these days. What excites me about the south west of England is the chefs who used to work in the city are moving down to where we are located, and are cooking some really interesting stuff. Torquay has so many really great independent restaurants opening which aren’t afraid to push the boundaries. I try to get down to Port Isaac whenever possible – I think Nathan Outlaw’s place The Fish Kitchen is absolutely amazing.

Restaurants are a daily chaos. You get pipes breaking, machinery malfunctions, customers coming and going, staff may not turn up – it’s just the nature of running a restaurant. We focus on appointing the right people and training them in the ways of the business. We want to keep our cooking really simple and rely heavily on the ingredients themselves and the distinct flavours they produce, which is why we get our fish as fresh as we possibly can.

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