FOOD HEROES: JACK STEIN
PUBLISHED: 13:13 26 October 2015 | UPDATED: 12:59 30 August 2017
He started out as a kitchen porter in his dad’s restaurant during his school holidays, and now Jack Stein is his executive chef
He started out as a kitchen porter in his dad’s restaurant during his school holidays, and now Jack Stein is his executive chef, overseeing the company’s five restaurants, pub, cookery school and its brigade of 117 chefs
Jack was born in Cornwall and is the middle son of three boys born to TV chef and restaurateur Rick Stein and Gill Stein. He began his career in the hospitality industry as a kitchen porter during school holidays in Rick’s The Seafood Restaurant kitchen - which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. At 16 he moved to front of house where he remained throughout his education.
But Jack hasn’t always been in the kitchen - he completed a BSc in Psychology and an MA in Ancient History at Cardiff University. But he returned to The Seafood Restaurant as commis chef, moving to Rick Stein’s Café two years later as sous chef for another year. He left the Stein empire and headed to Paris to La Régalade, which ignited a passion for travel and a period of stage work all over the world taking in Australia for an extended stay at Tetsuya’s in Sydney, before exploring the Far East and Japan.
Alongside his day job as executive chef, Jack is working with Branston, the UK’s leading supplier of potatoes, to encourage people to make the most of Cornish seasonal new potatoes. branston.com
How would you describe your food style?
Simple, natural and produce driven. Sustainability is having more and more influence on it too as I learn more about it.
Who has been your greatest food influence?
Without doubt my parents. Their dedication to hospitality for 40 years is inspirational.
How important is seasonality in your menu?
Very important, it occupies a great deal of my time. Fish speciation [evolution] and seasonal changes most of all, but also what is grown at our local farm (Padstow Kitchen Garden), I also like seasonal delicacies from elsewhere like truffles; I love British produce but would always take a little white truffle if offered!
What is your favourite flavour of Cornwall?
The smell of the sea air as waves crash on the cliffs around my home. There is a chemical with a long name that exists in sea water, and is blown into the air when a wave breaks. It is taken in by things like oysters. That ozone type salty flavour is my favourite. I can’t be without the sea.
What ingredient couldn’t you do without?
You have to say salt, but failing that Marmite.
What was your most memorable meal?
Fortunately we travelled extensively when we were young all across the world, so there have been many. But a meal of pollock from a boat trip in Padstow, freshly dug new potatoes and wild fennel at a friend’s is probably the most memorable.
Why did you become a chef?
The industry has changed from the one my parents found in the mid-70s. Chefs like Heston [Blumenthal] and Ferran Adria have shown that you can demystify cooking and treat it more like a university degree. This happened as I was doing my psychology degree and it spoke to me. It means you can learn in an open source way, as opposed to more military regimes such as the traditional kitchen might have been.
What is your food heaven?
Nasi Goreng, bintang and an uncrowded reef break somewhere in Indonesia.
What is your idea of food hell
Quiche, can’t stand it!
What’s going to be big in 2016?
I’ve been doing a lot of fermenting, and using our waste products as well. I saw Cauliflower Stem Kimchi (fermented Korean style cabbage) the other day, it makes you think about waste parts of ingredients in new ways.