The world of food is undoubtedly a male-dominated one. I say this not as a feminist but simply as a matter of fact. I wrote a piece on the Great British Menu 2012 in which it was noted that only one out of the 24 contestants was female. In an interview last year, Angela Hartnett described how she had to prove to Gordon Ramsay in her early days that, “I could last in the kitchen like men could.”
Interviewing the only woman nominee and subsequent winner of the Food Mag’s Reader Awards 2013 for Best Chef category, was therefore a breath of culinary fresh air. Emily Scott is owner and head chef at The Harbour Restaurant, Port Isaac, and beat four male heavyweights of the Cornish kitchen world to get her award. We spoke not of gender but simply of her love for good food which centres on memories, family and place.
“Food for me is not about a meal as such but ingredients associated with a place. My last meal on earth would be a white peach eaten in Bagnol, Provence, on the balcony of my grandfather’s house.” Disappearing to Burgundy for three years after training at a catering college in London was formative in shaping the food served up at The Harbour: “In France I found my ethos of food and how I wanted to cook and live.”
Despite a divorce and three young children, Emily seized the opportunity of buying the restaurant in Port Isaac in 2007 and describes it as a “nightmare” time. Then she met current partner, Jason Brain. Fresh out of Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall, with “massive” front of house experience, Jason is an erstwhile DJ who honed his customer skills in the fashion industry and the two have swiftly become a formidable team.
“Jason does all the cooking at home, I do the baking. I can be quite a control-freak and I have only just learnt not to ‘plate up’ restaurant style at home when we have dinner guests!”
“The table comes first in our house,” she goes on, “we’re always talking about food, thinking about food, making food. The children are real foodies, it’s all about showing them how easy it is to make things and not have to buy them.”
Emily refreshingly reveals that she “wouldn’t be a very good stay-at-home mother”, but acknowledges that “you are never not a mother, even at work.” Is this the reason for the great gender divide in the food world? Is it babies that ultimately prevent women from smashing through the sugar crust of the crème brûlée ceiling? After all, Angela Hartnett admitted that she had no time for a relationship and a family. Not so for Emily.
“People talk about rosettes and stars but I don’t want to do it. It’s very different as a female and I don’t think it’s something I want to do. It’s all about expectation and I want people to come and discover us for what we are rather than what we are expected to be.”
The next challenge for Emily? Learning not to become too emotionally involved, learning to take stock and moving on to bigger things: “Ultimately we are looking for a bigger restaurant. I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved as such a small team.” But be warned, this is a woman who “doesn’t do things by halves.”
For reservations at The Harbour, as well as catering services from The Harbour Kitchen, go to theharbourportisaac.com or phone the team on 01208 880 237.