|Rick Stein (copyright Juliana Johnston)|
Rick Stein's formative years in the 50s were shaped by the Oxfordshire farm where he was raised and his family's much loved holiday home in Cornwall.
His parents were charming, intelligent and gregarious; the five children much loved and given the kind of freedom typical of the time. School was fun; the holidays, as he grew older, filled with loud and lively parties in his parents' Cornish barn. There are tales of fishing trips with his father and memories of his mother's cooking, the taste of which he says he is still trying to recreate today.
Fishing off the rocks we never caught much more than wrasse and pollack. The wrasse were gorgeously coloured; deep red, orange, yellow and sometimes green or golden-hued, they tasted of nothing. The pollack were always the same colour, a silver belly and brown back and large dark blue eyes. My dad and I would take the fish back to the house where the wrasse were treated with little enthusiasm by my mother. She left them till they were starting to smell, I think to make me feel better about it, then threw them out into the springy cliff grass for the gulls. The pollack she made into fish cakes, often with mackerel, which were everpresent due to the almost daily boatfishing trips. All the cooking I've ever done since is in some way an attempt to recapture some of the flavours of the cooking at home when I was a boy. Those pollack fish cakes with mashed potatoes, parsley, salt, pepper and dazzlingly fresh mackerel, just put under the grill with a sprig of fennel, are still the best I've ever eaten.
But ever-present was the unpredictable mood of his bi-polar father, with Rick frequently the focus of his anger and sadness. His father's suicide when Rick was 18 precipitated his escape for two years to Australia.
Working in an abattoir and on the railways, he struggled to find his place in the world. but life began to change when, following his graduation from Oxford, he set up first a mobile disco called the Purple Tiger and then a nightclub in Padstow which catered largely for tanked-up, aggressive fishermen.
After one fight too many, the police closed him down but a clerical error meant that their licence to serve food still stood. Success followed hopelessness, and his hugely impressive career as a restaurateur and entrepreneur was followed by those of broadcaster, food champion and writer.
Rick Stein's passion for using good-quality local produce and his talent for creating delicious flavour combinations in his books and restaurant have won him a host of awards, accolades and fans. As well as presenting a number of television series, he has published many best-selling cookery books, including Rick Stein's Seafood, French Odyssey, Coast to Coast, Far Eastern Odyssey, Spain and most recently Rick Stein's India.
Rick is a firm supporter of sustainable farming and fishing techniques, which he strives to maintain in Padstow, Cornwall where he runs four acclaimed restaurants and a seafood cookery school, as well as a delicatessen and patisserie.
In 2003 Rick was awarded an OBE for services to West Country tourism. He divides his time between Padstow and Australia (the NSW South coast) where he opened a restaurant, Rick Stein at Bannisters, in 2009.