Jack Stein, Stein Restaurants, Padstow

The  Staff Canteen
Jack Stein is the middle son of British culinary legends Rick Stein and Jill Stein and is executive chef of all the Stein restaurants in Padstow and Falmouth. Despite starting out as kitchen porter aged 12, he didn’t always see himself in the kitchen.Jack Stein at Padstow photo by David Griffen However, after studying Psychology and Celtic History at Cardiff University, he came back to the family restaurant in Padstow to work as a commis chef. In the ten years since, he has risen through the ranks to become sous chef at The Seafood Restaurant then group development chef and this year, executive chef. He is now making his own impact on the UK’s culinary scene with appearances on Saturday Kitchen, Spring Kitchen as well as his father’s next TV series, an exploration of Byzantine food. The Staff Canteen caught up with him to find out about life in the Stein world.     Congratulations on becoming the executive chef across all the Stein restaurants; how have you found the step up? I’ve had to learn a lot. I was sous chef at The Seafood Restaurant and development chef for a year so in terms of running a kitchen it’s never been a problem for me but I’m now taking on a brigade of about 110 chefs and I’ve had to learn a lot about finance, HR and marketing. It’s really about making sure that the consistency is there and that Rick and Jill are happy with the food – that’s what, as a family, we’re really interested in; we’ve never been great numbers people, so we rely quite heavily on other people in the business for that. Seafood RestaurantIn a childhood that must have been full of fond food memories, can you pick out some that stick in your memory the most? I’ve got lots and lots of food memories but the one I would say most encapsulates the way my family were, was when Rick got his first TV series commissioned. He came back into the house with some lobsters. We never had lobsters at home which might sound strange but all our money went into in the restaurant. We had lobster and chips. I was 15 and we had this bottle of white Burgundy which was like the hundred quid bottle of wine at work which never got drunk. That was so Rick –lobster and chips – that was back in 94/95 when people in the restaurant scene would have said, “Lobster and chips, are you mad?” but nowadays there are restaurants that only serve lobster and chips. Did you have a lot of exposure to the restaurant kitchen as a child, and is that a fond memory? The kitchen is one of my most favourite places to be. I’m in there every day, even if I’m not at work. If I come into Padstow I’ll always walk through the kitchen, especially the Seafood Restaurant, because it just reminds me of being a kid, although the pastry section was probably my favourite section as an eight year old because we weren’t allowed chocolate at home! What was it like coming back to that kitchen to work as a commis chef 10 years ago? The first day I got in I had this Swiss chef de partie called Dominic. I didn’t have a clue; I knew what good food tasted like but I had no skills, nothing. The head chef, Stephane, just said, “Here’s Jack, he’s a new commis,” and set Dom off on me. This guy had just come out of the Swiss army and he worked me so hard. After about a month of being really beasted by him, my old man came into the restaurant; I think he’d been away in Australia filming for a month; he came to the pass and asked if I wanted to go for a beer after work. Dominic asked me how I knew him and I was like, “Oh, he’s my dad.” The next day I came into work and usually Dominic hounded me every morning to set up the chopping board, sharpen the section’s knifes, get hot and frozen water, grab a bin… but I came in this morning and the section was already set up for me and there was a piece of chocolate cake on the chopping board! It was very amusing but to be honest, I probably learnt more in that first month of working with Dominic than the rest of the time I spent in a kitchen. He taught me that organisation in the kitchen is vital, so I owe him a lot. Can you see yourself ever taking the Stein restaurants in your own direction in terms of food style? My food style is very similar to Rick’s, fresh seasonal produce, simply cooked. The chefs I admire and who I’m close to are the likes of Neil Rankin, Carl Clarke, Tom Adams from Pitt Cue and others that have trained in Michelin restaurants but have found that that style of cookery is bit too much. They’re all taking great British ingredients and just having fun with them. Padstow chilli crab_David-Griffen-PhotographyI think what Rick did with his Food Heroes has been really successful in this country and we’ve really rediscovered our artisan producers. I think the next stage is to get your brilliant meat or fish or veg from the best suppliers you can, then if you want to make hamburgers with it or barbecued food or some kind of mish mash of Mexican or whatever, just do it; the techniques are just the same as Michelin techniques but it’s just a bit more fun. What have you got on the horizon? I’ve also just been out to Albania filming with Rick. It’s a really interesting country because there’s no big corporate industry out there so it’s still very bio diverse. There are some great young chefs and food writers who’ve learnt a lot of what they do from the internet. The series is due out in May 2015 and focuses on the area covered by the old Byzantine Empire. The title for the series will be from Venice to Istanbul. Would I like to have my own restaurant eventually? I don’t know. If something came up, perhaps I’d like to have a restaurant a bit like Bras, out in the middle of nowhere, maybe on the cliffs. I’m interested in archaeology and the idea of combining fine dining and archaeological food would be something I’d like to try my hand at. It would be full-on self-sufficient, somewhere where all you can Pan fried herringsee is the sea. I’m constantly working on it; I call it my ‘x project’ and I’m constantly driving around in four-by-fours looking at pig sheds or anything that might be a potential site. I don’t know though, I sometimes think it might be a bit like a tattoo; like if I’d got that tattoo when I was travelling around America in 1998, would I still like it now? So in some ways I think I might stick to what I’m doing for the moment.

Read our guide to other seafood restaurants that any seafood lover should visit.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 3rd July 2014

Jack Stein, Stein Restaurants, Padstow