Heaven and Hell: Galton Blackiston
- Credit: Denise Bradley
Chef Galton Blackiston’s first foray into the food industry was when as a 17-year-old he set up a stall on Rye Market selling his own home-made cakes, biscuits and preserves. He went on to work in kitchens around the world before returning to Norfolk, where he was born, and opened Morston Hall, which holds a Michelin star. He also runs the award-winning fish and chip shop, No 1, on the seafront at Cromer. He talks to Emma Lee
What is your connection to East Anglia?
I was born in Norfolk and lived in the village of Hainford for the first 12 years of my life and went to Hainford Primary School. Then we moved to Kent for my father’s work. We would come back for holidays and would always go to Blakeney. I returned totally in 1991.
What is your East Anglian heaven?
It’s the north Norfolk coast. It’s where my businesses are. Everything about north Norfolk is a particular heaven for me.
What is your East Anglian hell?
There aren’t too many things that I hate about it, I must admit. Travelling around is taking much longer, in particular during the last 18 months because people have flocked to north Norfolk when everyone’s been allowed to, so the roads are so much busier.
What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?
If you look directly from Blakeney Quay, you’ll see a little house on the horizon, it’s called the Watch House. Further along, if you look out from Morston Quay you’ll see a blue hut on the horizon called the Point House. Those are landmarks which are special to me. Having said that I think that Cromer Pier is stunning.
What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?
I really enjoy the Royal Norfolk Show, but obviously that’s been curtailed for the last two years, next year it will be back. I love a day at the Royal Norfolk Show. More local to me is the Sandringham Flower Show, it’s lovely. I don’t get a chance to go to the Cromer Pier Show very often, but everyone who talks to me says it’s a brilliant show. And of course you’ve got the Thursford Spectacular, which is stunning. Thursford does signify Christmas to me.
What’s your specialist Mastermind subject?
I would have to say Norwich City from the 70s. Norwich are very close to my heart.
What is always in your fridge?
Butter and sweet chilli sauce. Those are the two staple things that will always be in the fridge.
What’s your simple philosophy of life?
To have a smile on your face at all times. And try and make sure each day you’re doing the very best you possibly can.
Your favourite restaurant is?
I think Claire Smyth at Core is brilliant, that’s in London. Further afield I had an amazing meal at a place called Ynyshir in mid Wales. That’s a chef called Gareth Ward whose cooking is amazing. Closer to home in Norfolk there’s one which has just recently opened, which is my prediction to be the next great thing - Meadowsweet in Holt. Greg and Rebecca used to work for me at Morston and set up on their own. it’s just done beautifully and the food is just stunning,
What’s your favourite film?
I don’t get chance to watch many films. I liked the film Django Unchained. I want to go and see the new Bond film.
What was your first job?
A paper round when we’d moved from Norfolk to Kent.
What is your most treasured possession?
Oh my goodness, that’s a tough one. It's a possession that will hopefully continue to come every year - the Michelin star plaque. It just marks each year that the work is worth it, even in tough times.
Who do you admire most?
That would have been the late, great Michel Roux Sr. I got to know him quite well, a lovely genuinely gentle man. I admired Marco Pierre White, he is my era. Closer to home I admire another chef, Kevin Mangeolles from The Neptune at Old Hunstanton. Him and Jacki are just such gentle, genuine people.
What is your biggest indulgence?
Collecting fine art to a certain degree. There are several pieces of artwork which are hanging around in Morston Hall.
What do you like about yourself most?
I think I’m pretty laid back and I try and be very fair.
Where is your favourite holiday destination?
I always used to say the West Indies, I love how laid back the islands are. But it’s such a long time since I’ve been away on holiday, at least three years. There are so many countries that because of the nature of work I haven’t had time to go to - I’d like to go to the Far East, Australia, New Zealand, but work dominates my life.
Best day of your life?
The announcement of being awarded a Michelin star in 1999 and also the births of my two boys, Harry and Sam.
What’s your favourite breakfast?
A really good full English. I do cook breakfast most mornings at Morston Hall and it’s really important. I think too many places rest on their laurels at breakfast, and actually it’s the last meal guests have before they depart. If they’ve had a beautiful dinner and then you’ve done a terrible breakfast and your scrambled eggs are bouncing off the wall then that’s the memory people have.
What’s your favourite tipple?
That’s got to be wine. I like a Pouilly-Fume on the white side and on the red side I like Burgundies or anything like that. I'm still very much a Francophile as far as wines go.
What’s your hidden talent?
I try and do a hard sudoku a day – I'm at an age where I’ve got to keep my mind always active and alert. Is that a hidden talent?
What’s your earliest memory?
Being taken by mum to see The Jungle Book - I think I was about five and remember that very well. I also remember being taken to my first football match at Carrow Road and Norwich won 5-1, against Oxford, I think. It was in an era when Norwich had players like Graham Paddon and Kenny Foggo.
Tell us something people don’t know about you?
I’m very competitive and that can be whether I play golf or whether I’m cooking. And I hate my name, still do. I’m the only Galton I’ve ever come across and you can imagine at school Galton didn’t go down too well.
What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?
There’s too many to answer that one. In the kitchen most things are said in the heat of the moment and it’s forgotten within five minutes and calmed down. In my early days in the kitchen I’d have things chucked at me, be shouted at, called all sorts, that’s how kitchens were. Hopefully things are a lot better now. They certainly are in our kitchens.
Tell us why you live here and nowhere else?
I think this happens to a lot of people who are born in Norfolk that you do go away and come back. I’m very lucky in that I live on the coast and I don’t want for anything more. I love the seasons, I like being near to the water. I’ve done my share of going around all over the place, working in different parts of the country and Norfolk is home to me.
What do you want to tell our readers about most?
I would urge youngsters to get into hospitality. We're in an era now in the hospitality industry in general where staff are hard to come by, but it’s served me. It’s hard work, but it’s very rewarding and anyone can become a great chef. You’ve just got to have the dedication, get excited about food and always aim to be the very best.