The Herald on Sunday
Chef Emily Scott on the delights of Cornwall
Ella Walker talks to the chef about her debut cookbook, seasonal produce and eating by the sea
Chef Emily Scott has “been doing what I’m doing for quite a long time” but says that right now she’s finally piecing together the last crucial pieces of the jigsaw. Those puzzle pieces include the confidence to put her own name to her new restaurant in Cornwall’s Watergate Bay, Emily Scott Food, and having just served her food to G7 summit leaders, she is celebrating the release of her debut cookbook, Sea & Shore.
The book, she says, has been “in my head for a long time”. And now the simple, pared-back, seasonal recipes are on paper, for us all to read, try and salivate over.
What was it like holding the book for the first time?
I rejected it a little bit, initially. It was a very weird feeling. My children were like, ‘What’s she doing? You’ve been waiting for this.’ And now I have become friends with it, it’s all okay. It’s very personal, because it’s my life, cooking over the years. But what I love about it is it’s got Cornwall at its heart.
What’s so special about Cornwall?
I’ve been here 20 years, and it’s almost like when you cross the River Tamar you come into another land. Even though it’s part of England, it feels quite magical. I spent high days and holidays down here as a child – if I wasn’t in France, we were in Cornwall – so it’s always been a place I’ve known. Being by the sea has been incredible, the connection between the land and the sea, I absolutely love. There’s a real sense of place.
Do you feel welcomed by the Cornish?
Ha ha, I was married to Cornishman. I subsequently divorced him. So you’re never really Cornish. You’re always an incomer. But, like anywhere, there’s the good, the bad and the ugly. But generally speaking, my children, they were born and have grown up here and I do feel very at home and very welcome.
The Cornish food scene seems to be increasingly thriving?
It’s funny, when I first arrived here in 1999, I had a tea shop and you opened for Easter, closed in October and didn’t reopen until April. There was a long Cornish winter. It was always somewhere that felt like it was hours to get to – it was one of those places that felt very far away. And the food has always been cream teas, fudge, sticks of rock, pasties, that kind of thing. But over the years, it’s just become this amazing food scene. It’s evolved so much, and so many people are just doing amazing things, from my supplier of vegetables at Padstow Kitchen Garden to the fishermen landing the lobsters and crabs, and people growing saffron and honey.
What do you hope people will take from Sea & Shore?
For me, it’s all about inspiring people to get cooking. This day and age is quite fast paced, and everyone wants everything immediately. I want to encourage people to rush slowly and to think about their butcher, their baker, going to the greengrocer again, really making those choices. But also, I want people to cook my food and to love the processes of doing that. Whether it’s hulling a strawberry, picking a broad bean or just whisking those egg whites for a pavlova, those things that bring you together as a family.
Seasonality seems to be a theme?
I think the universe has a way of showing us when things are at their best. My menu will have strawberries on it in June, but there won’t be any strawberries in December. So really clicking within the ebb and the flow of the world.
Are any of the recipes in the book particularly meaningful for you?
You have to be a fan of creme fraiche and fennel! That comes up quite a lot. And my grandmother’s chicken soup, which is comforting, we always had that when we were poorly or needed nourishment.