Meet the Chef - Antony Shirley, Seafood Pub Company
PUBLISHED: 00:00 22 January 2014 | UPDATED: 21:30 19 January 2016
Antony Shirley is executive chef of the Seafood Pub Company’s four gastro pubs – the Oyster & Otter at Blackburn, the Assheton Arms at Downham, The Fenwick at Claughton near Lancaster and the Farmers Arms at Great Eccleston.
Why did you want to be a chef? And what would you have liked to be, otherwise?
I wanted to be a chef from being about five years old. I don’t know why but I just really wanted to cook. My earliest venturewas running a bistro at Cale Green Primary School at the age of nine or 10. We served onion soup, chicken chasseur, crème caramel and cordial - all cooked on the Baby Belling stove. That spurred me on –but my home economics teacher later wrote in a school report that I should concentrate more on my written work than chatting to the 38 girls in the class!
What makes a good chef?
First - they need to have a massive love of food. After that, in no particular order, comes stamina, creativity, being goodwith people, having a stable temperament, a strong sense of humour and a big supply of elbow grease. They need to be team players, leaders, friends, be able to follow orders as well as give them, and to think on their feet. They also need to eat out as much as they can, eat in too … just eat really and always love it. When they think they’ve seen it all they have to know that they haven’t. Last of all, they have to take most things with a pinch of salt!
What sort of difference has your job made to your life?
It gets under your skin. Cooking has made my life, taken me to Raffles in the West Indies as head chef, has introduced me to some right old characters … and still is.I’ve made some amazing friends. It has introduced me to my beautiful and very talented girlfriend, given me a chance to be part of some great projects and keeps me on my toes. No two days are ever the same.
Chefs seem to be the new celebrities… why do you think this is?
Television chefs have definitely come into vogue and you might call me a cynic but there are far too many out there who might regard themselves as celebrities – but they’re not! It’s very hard job at times. TV, magazines and the web have given our industry some amazing exposure, which has focused a lot of positive attention on the food industry, but I do think it can all be glamorised a little bit much at times. The chefs who have become famous don’t get there by accident, they’ve pushed really hard.
What dish are you most proud of?
In the past few years it’s probably our Malaysian seafood curry. We’ve sold over 20,000 portions and it blows my mind to think about all those plated in one go. I’d love to retail it one day.
What’s the most difficult thing you’ve ever done?
Turning out to Fleetwood Docks at 2.30am to see the catches come into market, how they were filleted on planks of wood around an ice cold water bath with icicles