He has only two cooks in a small kitchen in the Cornish resort of Rock, from where he can peer across the Camel Estuary into Rick Stein's dining rooms in Padstow.
Now, though, Nathan Outlaw has overtaken Britain's best-known fish chef, TV presenter and his former mentor - at least in the culinary stakes.
The Michelin Great Britain and Ireland Guide 2011 has awarded his small, self-financed Restaurant Nathan Outlaw two stars for its sympathetic handling of simple dishes such as cod with tartare sauce and clams, rating it among the top 20 in Britain and Ireland.
For Outlaw, 32, the award in the 100th anniversary edition of the British Michelin guide is a recognition of his status as a rising star.
Some critics have already ranked his nine-table restaurant at the St Enodoc Hotel as among the elite in the UK.
Last year the Good Food Guide rated it the fifth best in the country and the single best for fish.
By contrast Stein, who trained Outlaw 13 years ago - and on whose customers Outlaw can spy with binoculars on a clear day - has no Michelin stars, despite his prime-time ubiquity and reputation.
Derek Bulmer, who helped edit the Michelin guide, said he had been keeping an eye on Outlaw for a decade.
"He has a particular flair with fish," said Mr Bulmer, who retired last year after 30 years.
"He doesn't overcomplicate. He knows when a dish is finished."
Outlaw trained with Stein for two years as a teenage novice. When he was there he not only discovered a love of fish cookery but met pretty front-of-house staff member Rachel, who later became his wife. The couple have two children.
He has remained friends with Stein, who has written the foreword for his book Modern British Seafood Cookery, due to be published this year.
"He always told me to keep things simple and tasty and that's what I try to do. I don't think Rick is into Michelin stars," Outlaw said, adding: "There are no other Michelin-starred fish restaurants in the UK, which is pretty peculiar for an island."
Frenchwoman Helene Darroze was the only other new two-star addition for her restaurant at The Connaught in London, which had been run by Gordon Ramsay.
Ramsay himself kept his three stars at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea, London, and earned a new one for Petrus - but lost a Bib Gourmand recommendation (which highlights restaurants offering 'good food at moderate prices') for his bistro Foxtrot Oscar.
Summer Isles in the Scottish Highlands lost its star, as did Deanes in Belfast.