Paul Ainsworth was born the son of guesthouse owners, in Southampton. He speaks of his childhood as one of labour, having four paper rounds at the age of 12, working five nights at a fruit and vegetable merchants, alongside collecting orders for the Betterware catalogue, and somehow doing a bit of schoolwork. The result of a childhood filled with work is an adult life filled with work. Ainsworth appears to be incapable of having a quiet day, the swiftness of his rise into owning several restaurants and guesthouses, organising events and festivals, amongst many achievements is truly astounding. It can only be the result of a restless creative mind and boundless energy and enthusiasm.
Plucked by Gary Rhodes in 1998 from Southampton City College while studying catering – alongside working in Star Hotel and Carey Manor in Hampshire – Ainsworth credits Rhodes with a lot of his early inspiration. After two years, he moved to work under Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road for three years, before beginning his working relationship with Marcus Wareing at Ramsay’s Petrus restaurant in 2003. Petrus moved sites in 2006, at which time Ainsworth decided to follow Wareing to the new Berkeley Hotel. Gary Rhodes, Gordon Ramsay, and Marcus Wareing are three names any aspiring top chef would love to have on their CV.
After these eight years developing his skills as a chef in London, Ainsworth made the leap and moved to Padstow to work as the head chef at No.6 – Cornwall, as it was known at the time. His friend and business partner, Derek Mapp funded the project, but after three years Ainsworth and his wife, Emma, bought the restaurant from him. They then renamed the venue to Paul Ainsworth at No.6. It was here, in 2013, that Ainsworth was awarded his first Michelin star and fourth AA rosette in 2016. A chef’s table, called Mahe, was opened next door to No.6 to share the cooking process.
Paul Ainsworth at No.6 is the showpiece restaurant, but in 2010 Paul and Emma Ainsworth expanded their portfolio by purchasing Rojano’s, Padstow, and then renaming it Caffe Rojano by Paul Ainsworth. The restaurant serves mainly Spanish and Italian food. In 2014, the Padstow Townhouse opened, which (including Mahe, which opened later) completes Ainsworth’s Padstow collection. The Mariners Public House in Rock was purchased in 2019, which Emma Ainsworth redesigned.
Ainsworth focuses on quality ingredients across all his establishments, believing that the relationship between himself and his suppliers is what permitted his success. Despite his current base in Cornwall, there is no particular focus on seafood, insisting the sea’s positive influence on Cornish land creates enough of a reason to hold Cornish meat and vegetables in the same regard.