The Wordrobe talks going it alone and the supreme importance of ingredients with Bruce Rennie of The Shore, Cornwall
Chef owner of The Shore restaurant in Cornwall, Bruce Rennie is the captain of his own culinary ship.
Having started his career as a penniless student, Bruce went on to fall in love with the magic of fine dining establishment. He worked at numerous Michelin-starred restaurants across the UK, before making the move to Cornwall.
After captaining the kitchens of several award-winning venues, he decided it was time to open his own place in order to create his own style of food – and thus, The Shore was born.
One of the few British chef-patrons who work alone in his kitchen, Bruce has recently used his passion for sourcing only the finest of ingredients to launch a new recipe book, The Shore.
Editor of The Wordrobe Sophie Ritchie caught up with Bruce to find out more, as well as what keeps this solo chef so inspired.
What inspired you to become a chef?
No cliches here, I ran out of money. I’d been in the trade since 15 as a waiter and kitchen porter/kitchen hand.
I worked pretty much full time whilst at uni and then college but the government grant was recalled and I had to find income to pay it back so had to quit education.
I had to think about what career inspired me but I could learn from the bottom up with on the job training. It was an obvious choice to me but one that had never really occurred before.
Where did you train? Tell us more about your culinary background…
All on the job. I started in a chain hotel but was very uninspired and this caused me to seek out high quality places to learn from whilst working.
I worked at predominately 2 AA rosette and above restaurants including both restaurants at The Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh. From there I went to work for Gary Rhodes where I progressed to Head Chef after six months.
After that I headed up a kitchen team in Northern Ireland with another chef at Michelin starred ‘Shanks’. After a year I returned to Scotland and ended up at Michelin starred Restaurant Martin Wishart where I was promoted to Head chef after 6 months.
During my time here we managed to achieve 4 AA rosettes and 8.5 / 10 in the good food guide. Then I moved to Cornwall.
I have run several places including the Gurnards Head pub (for 4 and a half years) where we reached number five in the UK Gastropub guide.
I also ran a small plates restaurant which was bought out by Rick Stein, so I had a stint as Head chef for him. But it was time to open my own place so I could create my own style of food.
What’s your favourite summer dish?
Simple and fresh, clearly I love fish, and I love fresh local vegetables. I love a good light vegetable nage (like a light broth) with plain steamed fish or perhaps some grilled sardines on toast.
What can guests expect from a meal at The Shore?
A reflection of me, my personality and my palate. It’s the freshest fish and vegetables I get locally on a daily basis, if it isn’t on the market I won’t have it on the menu.
I use two organic farms locally for most of my vegetables and grow some myself. I don’t use frozen foreign prawns or squid and I don’t mislead about provenance, this is a huge bugbear of mine.
I pay a lot for the best produce I can source locally. That’s what sets me apart here.
What’s it like to run your own restaurant, by yourself?
Tough, lonely but gratifying. It’s successes and failures are my own. I have autonomy but it also means that progress can be slowed by the way I operate cooking fresh every day reacting to the subtleties of micro-seasonality.
Tell us more about the new book! What can a foodie expect?
The book is essentially a story of the restaurant so far. There are a series of menus with recipes showing my flavour compositions and examples of dishes I have served at the restaurant until now.
It’s a snapshot of what I serve and how I compose dishes…but…it is not a book to teach you how to cook fish although there is a section which provides insight into my approach.
It is more about flavour and character. Fish cooking would be a much larger future project.
Do you have any role models?
Too many to mention! Where would I even begin? I admire chefs with integrity and passion, with a clearly defined sense of self through their food.
What does hospitality mean to you?
It is everything we do. We are servants. I’m grateful for my guests who choose to spend their hard earned money at my wee restaurant. Which in turn, allows me to continue what I do, what I love.
There is nothing better to me than meeting my guests at the end of their meal and connecting with them more than I have ever before.
I feel honoured to be able to cook for my guests and let them disconnect from the manic society we live in and relax here.
We will do what we can to make our guests happy (unless it is at the expense of anyone else’s experience of course).
Name three of your top restaurants.
I’ve recently enjoyed these three but, again, to pick all time favourites as a chef is just impossible; Restaurant Nathan Outlaw (Port Isaac), Hide (London), The Cellar (Anstruther).
What advice would you offer to aspiring chefs?
Work hard, work well, stay positive, see the long game, don’t take shortcuts.
Go and work for the best places you can find and do at least one whole year, any less is pretty much a waste of time.
What do you think is 2019’s biggest food trend?
I’m afraid I don’t follow trends, sorry. I’m about longevity, not about flash in the pan fashion. Quality lasts.
Find out more about The Shore restaurant, Bruce and his new book by clicking here.