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Chef Valentine Warner and his all-encompassing passion for seafood

Valentine Warner has a passion for fish and fishing that’s hard to match. ‘Born to fish, forced to work’ is his mantra, and whenever possible he fits fishing in alongside the profession he cherishes: cooking and all things related to food.

Catching (and cooking) the very freshest fish

Valentine is never happier than when he’s chasing a pike, or fishing for trout in the dark with worms in one pocket and a bottle of local cider in the other.

Wherever Valentine is and whatever he’s doing, his environment drives him. He regularly retreats to two beautiful but very different sections of the English coastline – Northumberland because it contains remnants of wilderness and England’s last great wild frontier, and Dorset because it’s easy to find pockets that let him get away from it all.

By his own admission, Valentine loves fish and shellfish more than just about any other foodstuff. And there’s nothing he enjoys more than catching his own fish and eating it straight away. ‘Nothing compares to waking up in a hut after fishing for sea trout, and breakfasting on freshly-caught trout added to a pan with a rasher of bacon and some butter.’

‘There isn’t a fish I don’t like, and I eat things some people won’t – I love bloaters (a Norfolk speciality of herring that are salted and lightly smoked without gutting, giving a characteristic slightly gamey flavour).  If I’m in Devon I love turbot and brill. Woodsmoke as an ingredient is amazing - there’s nothing like turbot cooked over charcoal. Whiting makes the best fish and chips. Green shore crabs smashed up make an incredible soup. I’m crazy for shellfish. My menu is dictated by the countryside around me.’

Chef Valentine Warner and his all-encompassing passion for seafood Chef Valentine Warner and his all-encompassing passion for seafood
Chef Valentine Warner and his all-encompassing passion for seafood

Making the most of the coast

Valentine is inspired by the coast's wild places in more ways than one.

This philosophy extends into the making of Hepple Gin, which is inspired by the Northumberland countryside. ‘We stood under a Douglas Fir tree breathing in the smell of pine, and from there we could see the bog myrtle. From the bog myrtle we saw juniper, and from there lovage and blackcurrants growing in the garden. We set about capturing these local flavours, and Hepple Gin was born of its environment. It’s a gin that is created from the cool climate plants that grow in Northumberland - bright, clean and invigorating. Curlews and plovers often fly overhead while we’re making our drinks - it’s a very special place.’

Valentine loves the English coastline because it allows him to eat according to the environment, having got his hands dirty catching his meal.  ‘If you live by the sea you don’t need a supermarket. Getting out into the elements with the sea wind blowing and taking a deep breath is invigorating. If you can’t go out and catch it yourself, visit a fishmonger who knows what he’s talking about.’ Either way, food tastes unbelievably good when taken so close to its source.

If Valentine has inspired you to experience England’s Seafood Coast, there’s lots to explore in Northumberland and Dorset. Where will your seafood adventure take you?