It’s fair to say Paul Foster and his restaurant Salt have had a good year. Cara Houchen, Savour contributor and Editor of The Staff Canteen, talks to the chef about achieving his childhood dreams.
His restaurant Salt picked up three Rosettes in the AA Restaurant Guide 2019, was awarded a star at this year’s Michelin Guide UK and Ireland and Paul Foster has also released his debut book.
“Bookings have gone crazy!” laughs Paul. “It all feels like a bit of a blur now, especially as I didn’t expect it. I’d written Michelin off as I’d had inspections every year since 2010 when I was at Tuddenham Mill, then Mallory Court – it never happened, so I put it to bed!”
His debut book, Salt gives a very personal view of his journey, not just as a chef, but as a husband and father, too. “It wasn’t intended to be like any other cookbook. I didn’t want it to be faceless,” explains Paul. “I wanted it to be honest, I wanted to show the times in my career where I have struggled – and things haven’t gone well. It’s a tough industry so let’s just be honest about it.
“I wanted it to be a true representation of everything so the food has not been dumbed down, although a lot of it is achievable at home, it is exactly how we produce it at the restaurant.
“Family is important to me and I wanted it to be all encompassing.”
Paul opened Salt restaurant, in Stratford-upon-Avon, using funding from a Kickstarter in 2016. He raised more than £100,000 and one of his pledges was ‘Paul’s first cookbook signed and delivered to your door’. So, when asked why he had decided to write a book now, that was the primary reason.
“The opportunity was there and I thought why not?” says Paul. “It’s something I wanted to do since I was 13 and I got my first cookbook, but it was one of those things I thought was unattainable.
“There are three things I’ve wanted to achieve: when I was ten I wanted my own restaurant, when I was 13 I wanted my own cookery book and when I was 16, and I’d heard about Michelin for the first time, I wanted a Michelin star. I’m not sure what I will do next.”
The book features stunning photography by Andy Richardson, alongside 40 handpicked recipes, and it also contains some of the artisan producers Paul uses as says he ‘couldn’t do it without them’.
Holding the first copy of Salt ‘was amazing’ and Paul adds: “I was nervous, and I remember thinking, ‘am I going to like it?’. But I’m over the moon, it’s striking and everything I wanted.”
As a chef who has always bought other chefs’ books, he can now add his own to his collection – but is it strange to think Salt will sit on the shelves of so many others within the industry? “Yeah it is. Especially as there are parts of the book where I wear my heart on my sleeve.”
The book, although challenging at times, was completed in six months. As well as Paul’s biography there are ten recipes for each season, although Paul admits it was difficult to choose which ones made the final edit.
But a favourite addition is the chef stories, where Paul approached friends within the industry and asked them to write about their best dining experiences. “There’s loads of people I could have asked,” he said. “But it’s a mixture of friends and people I admire in the industry. I knew they would add something interesting to the book and it’s a mixture of different styles of chef.
“I was inspired by Sat Bains and his book. I was trying to strip the ego away; a book ultimately is a vanity project and I didn’t want it to just be about me and my food. I wanted to get across to diners or people who maybe don’t eat out much that a great meal is not just about great food. I’m just annoyed none of the chefs picked Salt for their favourite meal,” he jokes.
Photography by Andy Richardson