The Last Word

The Last Word

This month: John Calton, The Staith House

You’re looking well John, but if you did happen to be on death row, what would be your last meal on earth? Marco Pierre White’s tagliatelle of oysters and truffles, of course!

Nice choice. So what have you got in your home fridge right now? We’ve got some lamb chops, a really nice bit of Somerset brie and some little bits of charcuterie. We keep it nice and simple as we tend to eat out on our days off as we spend 5-6 days a week in the restaurant.

And what do you eat for breakfast? Porridge with granola, banana and honey made by my wife Kimberley. Something different every day – eggs, smoothies, a bit of everything.

Blimey, that’s healthy. What’s your ultimate ingredient, quinoa? Nah, I’ve always loved truffles. I’ve used them in all sorts of ways.

And your must-have kitchen tool? A decent knife sharpener – ours is from Robert Welsh and it’s fantastic.

Favourite recipe? I get bored quite quickly so it changes all the time. I love working with fish and right now it would be our bouillabaisse with a pan-fried piece of gurnard – it’s an underrated fish, beautiful and meaty.

Your favourite cook book? Well, I’ve got about 1,000, so that’s really tough! I keep going back to Andrew Pern’s Black Pudding and Foie Gras, which is fantastic, having worked with him back in the day. And Michel Roux Jr’s Le Gavroche was the first recipe book I ever got so that’s a favourite too.

Who’s the most famous person you’ve cooked for? I don’t remember that many, but there were the judges from Masterchef The Professionals – Jay Rayner, Andy Hayler and Charles Campion.

What’s your food guilty pleasure? I love pizzas topped with anything hot and spicy. We eat pretty healthy at home so it’s my treat.

And the culinary gods’ advice you always follow? Cook with the seasons, don’t waste anything and keep it simple. I’ve heard them time and time again throughout my career.

Your worst food disaster ever? Black Thursday, as we now call it. Just after we opened The Staith House, a Thursday night before Christmas the gas went off, the fryer broke and we ended up trying to do 60 covers from a tiny plancha.

Glad you go survived that to tell the tale. What’s your specialty? Fish and shellfish is the obvious one with North Shields Fish Quay on our doorstep. We also do a lot of game, with some fantastic local produce.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef? I have no idea! I started an electrical engineering course, but couldn’t get away it. Maybe I’d be in wine or a food writer.

If you only had £10 to spend on food, what would it be? I’d stay in, buy some vegetables and chilies and do a pan of soup. The rest would go on some good bread and cheese for cheese on toast.

And your vote for greatest cook ever? Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay.

John Calton is chef/owner of the award-winning gastro pub The Staith House in North Shields, listed in the Michelin Guide, Michelin Eating Out in Pubs Guide, and The Good Food Guide.

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