Paul Rankin gears up for food fest
May 15 2009 by Katahrine Capocci, The Journal
portrait: paul rankin
Belfast chef Paul Rankin will be cooking up a storm this weekend as a guest chef at the Jesmond Dene House food festival in Newcastle. He talks to Katharine Capocci about life back in his own restaurant kitchen, fusion food and his love of the North East.
IT’S a Saturday morning and chef Paul Rankin is enjoying a well-earned cup of coffee as he catches up with the latest instalment of BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen.
It’s a show he’s not unfamiliar with, having starred in the fast-paced cooking programme a fair few times himself, as well as a host of other TV foodie offerings, among them Ready Steady Cook and Step Up to the Plate.
But this morning he’s feeling the effects of a tough night slaving away in his own restaurant kitchen the night before. “It was rough. I was in the kitchen and there were little problems. It was very busy,” explains the Michelin-starred restaurateur on the phone from his Belfast home.
“Kitchens are like football teams – they aren’t always perfect. It was quite difficult. I was boning ducks at 12.30. It’s very tiring and quite emotional.”
Paul finds himself back in the kitchen at his highly-acclaimed Asian fusion restaurant, Cayenne in Belfast, after much-publicised recent financial difficulties. Something many celebrity chefs can relate to these days.
“It’s back to basics,” says the father-of-three, who co-owns Cayenne with his business partner wife Jeanne, also a chef. Paul and Canadian Jeanne met while travelling in the 1980s. In 1984 they ended up at Le Gavroche, the Roux brothers’ restaurant in London, where they learned their trade.
It’s fair to say Paul’s been through the financial mill of late, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel now, much to his relief.
Bankruptcy proceedings against him and his wife were dismissed in March after an agreement was reached with creditors.
“It’s a relief to have structure going forward,” says Paul. “You do your best in business to make things work, you have ideas, you have a go. You have to take it on the chin.
“I am relieved – it feels like I’m back in control.”
Paul, who won Northern Ireland’s first Michelin star at his restaurant Roscoff in Belfast in 1999, has been credited with rejuvenating the culinary scene in his homeland.