Mitch Tonks – restaurateur, founder and chief executive of Rockfish, which has a branch in Weymouth – describes himself as "a self-taught chef and enthusiast who has made a life out of doing the things I love which are cooking, dreaming up restaurants and creating opportunity for others". He lives in Brixham, has five "wonderful" children and an ambition to sail around the world one day.

He has had links with Dorset from an early age when he would visit Lyme Regis four or fives times a year with his family. As a teenager he spent time water ski racing in the town, with a win rewarded with crab sandwiches and a drink in the Cobb Arms.

Mitch now regularly revisits the area, taking his own children mackerel fishing, visiting the seafood stall, pub and the corner shop for ice creams.


Q: What would be your perfect day out in Dorset?

A: I love to go to Lyme Regis, it’s a place I used to go with my Dad as a kid and later in life I used to water ski race a lot there. I’ve since lost my Dad so the place is very special to me. If I could be dropped at the Cobb, spend a few hours mackerel fishing, a pint in the Cobb arms and a long lunch at HIX followed by an afternoon in a chair on the beach reading and grilling mackerel for supper it would be a perfect day.


Q: What are your fondest memories of the county?

A: I can recall going to Lyme Regis with my Nan, she was the person who got me most inspired to cook, she cooked all the time, we had no money so she made something out of nothing and grew her own veg. She seemed to know everything about food and especially fish and I can still remember being on the beach with her as she bartered for a bag of fish from a fisherman. We had red ‘gurnets’, as she called them, and we got on the coach to go home with our bag and we cooked them in lots of butter the next day.


Q: What has been your proudest achievement?

A: There have been many but I think when I look round out dinner table at my children who are all now grown up, I fell a magnificent sense of pride in them all, they are like my best friends, each different and all so very cool and loveable, they are a great source of inspiration to me.


Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?

A: My kids are one, I look at the gift of youth in them with their whole lives ahead, I listen to their plans and ideas and they remind me not to stop dreaming myself. I read every day and have four or five books on the go at any one time, one to switch off, one to challenge and one to escape, I like reading about sailors who have achieved great journeys and wonder at the mental strength they muster up to complete such journeys, I guess one day I will find out. I also get lots of inspiration from fellow chefs and friends I’ve met in my years cooking, Angela Hartnett, Neil Borthwick, Henry Harris, Hixy, Nathan Outlaw, Nieves Barragan-Mohaco – there are too many to mention.


Q: What would be your favourite thing to do when you have a day off?

A: To hook up with my sailing crew, sail my boat to Dartmouth and have a long long lunch at The Seahorse and a sleep on board afterwards.


Q: Where is your favourite place to eat in the county?

A: It has to be HIX, Mark is a great pal but also one of the best cooks I’ve ever met, he has built a great restaurant in Lyme and knows his stuff about seafood so sitting there eating what I know will be super fresh fish just simply prepared is perfect for me.


Q: What three things do you associate with Dorset?

A: High cliffs, long beaches and small towns If you could summarise the county in one word what would it be?

(An English) paradise.