Food revives memories of happy times
This summer Emily Scott announced the sale of her popular Port Isaac restaurant, The Harbour, to Michelin starred chef Nathan Outlaw.
The mother-of-three and her partner Jason Brain are concentrating on their thriving outside catering business and its new cafe-cum-deli base, The Harbour Kitchen Supply Store.
For many of us, hosting and catering a party can be a stressful and sweaty undertaking, a farce of deflating vol au vents and Bridget Jones-esque calamities. For Emily Scott, who ran her first kitchen in Burgundy aged 16 after the owner fell ill, it is an opportunity to get everybody around a table eating exquisite but unpretentious food and enjoying each other's company.
Her French inspired cooking is all about simplicity and freshness, with few ingredients and not a foamy sauce in sight. After opening the doors of the Harbour Restaurant at the top of Port Isaac's slipway seven years ago and spending five nights a week within its tiny walls, she said putting it on the market this spring had been a difficult decision.
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"It has been amazing, we'd worked so hard to build up the business and in the last couple of years it all came together. I wanted a new challenge though and a change in lifestyle for my family."
Even before the sale it had been a big year, with Emily winning Best Chef in Food magazine's Reader Awards and coming runner up in the Food Heroes category to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
"The award really meant a lot to me," she said. "I'm not a feminist but I do sometimes think women have to work harder to achieve recognition in this industry."
With Nathan now at the helm of the iconic eatery – renamed Outlaw's Fish Kitchen – Emily and her team can concentrate on outside catering arm The Harbour Kitchen, and its versatile HQ at the top of the village, The Harbour Kitchen Supply Store. Based in what used to be her brother's art gallery, the outpost sells coffee, cheese, cured meats, wine and homemade cakes, bread (baked by Jason) sandwiches and all kinds of quality larder ingredients. Emily said: "It's a wonderful space – somewhere for shoppers to pause and browse but also a place for people to discuss their catering needs for events and special occasions. This side of things really took off over the past few years and I love the variety of it – from weddings of up to 100 guests to private dining in your own home. It's often challenging but we relish that – you don't get into this business if you're afraid of hard work."
So, to party food. As well as creating your "mise en place" (preparing all ingredients and equipment before starting in order to avoid panic stations), Emily advocates pared down, honest yet elegant dining: "I think there's a tendency to overcomplicate party food, to try to impress with fiddly designs and a barrage of flavours, but its just not necessary.
"Let the quality of your ingredients speak for themselves. Fish can be quite scary – people think they're going to have to make a big mess descaling and filleting it themselves – but I'm a huge fan of getting the people who know fish best to bring it to me exactly how I want it. Same goes for butchers. They take as much pride in their work as I do in mine."
Another way to minimise party faff is to make up a big batch of tasty, versatile salad (something like the courgette, red chilli and rocket, right) and lay it out on a platter with your meat, fish or vegetables.
"Presentation wise it looks great," said Emily, "it's a bit different and far less stressful than plating up individual servings. I also like the element of interaction, of people helping others to a portion.
"Whatever the occasion or size of the group it reminds me of family around a table. To be honest, a lot of my food is based around memories of happy times and plans for gatherings to come."
To contact Emily and her team visit: theharbourportisaac.com and theharbourkitchen.com or call 01208 880237.