Michael Smith – Executive Chef, The Porthminster Group
Michael grew up in Victoria, Australia, where he trained as a chef – whenever he wasn’t in the surf. From Warrnambool at one end of the Great Ocean Road he moved to Melbourne at the other, and was lucky enough to cut his teeth in the vibrant restaurant scene there. Melbourne’s cultural eclecticism inspired Michael’s love of both Asian and European (especially Italian) food.
However, London was calling, and Michael inevitably found his way to another enormous melting pot, working in pioneering fusion restaurant The Sugar Club. But it wasn’t long before the young Aussie missed the ocean and the clean air. “I’d heard about Cornwall’s beaches and surf, but as an Aussie I didn’t quite believe it I got on a train though and eventually arrived in St Ives: I knew straight away I would be here for a while, and that was fifteen years ago!”
Michael inspired such confidence in the owners of Porthminster Beach Café that he was soon running the kitchen, and earning the beach-side restaurant a reputation as one of the best places to eat in Cornwall. This soon translated to the national stage, and multiple awards and a hugely loyal following were rewarded with a partnership in the business. As the business grew, so did Michael’s role and he is now Executive Chef of The Porthminster Group, comprising Porthminster Kitchen, Porthminster Beach Café and Porthgwidden Beach Café.
Michael describes his style as ‘modern seafood’. He explains: “It’s all about ingredients and sourcing – it’s this search for the best seasonal produce which really brings out the best in my cooking. The seafood in Cornwall opens up all sorts of possibilities and combinations. I think that the freshest, great quality fish and shellfish lends itself perfectly to Asian dishes, however a lot of my early training was in Italian and French cooking so the menu always features traditional European recipes too.”
Michael or a member of his team forage daily along the coastal path, and grow as much produce as possible in the restaurant garden overlooking the beach. All year round, dishes are given lively touches with fresh herbs, leaves, fruit and edible flowers.