Pete Murt, head chef, Rick Stein Sandbanks

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th May 2017

Pete Murt is head chef at Rick Stein, Sandbanks. He has worked at Rick Stein's restaurants for many years and also worked previously at Claude Bosi's two Michelin starred restaurant, Hibiscus.

Pete grew up in Padstow, a small fishing village in Cornwall where he found himself falling in love with fish and working for Rick at The Seafood Restaurant with Stephane Delourme. He fancied a change of scenery and so he went to work for Claude Bosi at Hibiscus, before returning to Rick Stein - their Sandbanks restaurant.

Pete spoke to The Staff Canteen about the food style at a Rick Stein restaurant and the differences between the refined food style of Hibiscus and the fresh, familiar seafood stylings of Rick Stein Sandbanks.

The Team at Rick Stein Sandbanks
The Team at Rick Stein, Sandbanks

When did you realise you wanted to be a chef?

I started in one of Rick’s bistros as a KP and doing pot washing, then I did a bit of travelling, came back and then chef said: "you ain’t being KP no more, you need to do something with your life!" So I started in the kitchen when I was about 21. When I was a KP, especially being from a fishing village like Padstow, I was tasting a wide range of fish I’d never tasted before. Trying different foods really inspired me, seeing how different species of fish are. I almost fell into it. I didn’t necessarily want to be a chef, I just got into the kitchen and loved it. You’ve got a bunch of lads in the kitchen, we usually have a bit of a laugh, we work hard but it’s fun as well. Especially when you’re young.

So I started in the kitchen when I was about 21. When I was a KP, especially being from a fishing village like Padstow, I was tasting a wide range of fish I’d never tasted before. Trying different foods really inspired me, seeing how different species of fish are. I almost fell into it. I didn’t necessarily want to be a chef, I just got into the kitchen and loved it. You’ve got a bunch of lads in the kitchen, we usually have a bit of a laugh, we work hard but it’s fun as well. Especially when you’re young.

Have your travels influenced your food style at all?

Going to Asia definitely did. Rick [Stein] loves his Asian food. I also went to Mexico, which again is a brilliant country for its cuisine. My head chef at the time said: "you’ll love the food over there" - so it was a no-brainer to go. I think the food was quite a big influence. You like to go and see places with good food, even places you don’t associate with a culture of food do have one, everywhere does.

 You worked at The Seafood Restaurant at home in Padstow from 2007, what was it like there?

I basically built myself up there at the bistro to sous chef, then ended up moving to The Seafood Restaurant. I was working with the legend that is Stephane [Delourme] - he's a classic French guy, hugging and kissing everyone! He took me that little step further. It’s like Jack Stein says: "everyone has their chef, their mentor", and for a lot of people, Stephane is that guy. He’s such a good head chef, he’ll actually support you and take you on the journey. He sees your potential and will hopefully get you to where you should be. This is a hard job so you’ve got to look after people. It’s hard to find staff, let alone good staff so you’ve got to develop people and make them want to stay, and you won’t do that by shouting at them.

What inspired the move to London?

I think I’d been with Rick for my whole career - nearly six years at The Seafood Restaurant - and Padstow’s my home town so I just wanted to move away for my own development and my confidence. I wanted to experience the big city, away from Cornwall and see if I could handle it. I wanted to do something different too, and do another style of food which Claude [Bosi] definitely has.

Beetroot salmon, Rick Stein, Sandbanks
Beetroot salmon at Rick Stein, Sandbanks

 What do you think the main differences were working in Hibiscus, compared to Rick Steins’ restaurants?

Working at Hibiscus was good; it was very different to The Seafood Restaurant in the way that it was run. Ian Scaramuzza was head chef – again, he would develop you. Claude is a bit intense but he’s really good and he took me to the next level once more! They had two Michelin stars at the time.

>>>Related: Ian Scaramuzza, Hibiscus, Mayfair

There were different systems in place – the way they cooked, the way they brought food up, it was mainly a tasting menu. The dishes were definitely more complex, with finer detail. Especially with Claude, he’s world-renowned for doing weird flavours and matching them really well – leek and coffee, things like that. We’d be in the kitchen, looking at him doing something and you’d think it would never work, but you’d shut your eyes, eat it and it worked! He’s got that gift to match things that the average chef wouldn’t do.

I learnt a lot there. The fundamentals of doing the best food you possibly can were the same. Obviously, with Claude, he’s got one main restaurant and one modern French style whereas Rick has his main style, but he’s influenced by other cultures around the world from his travels and brings dishes and ideas back.

Info bar

Dream restaurant –

Padstow, definitely! Like in Padstow with The Seafood Restaurant, and very similar to this restaurant but with a bit more meat on the menu. The good thing about this place [Rick Stein Sandbanks] is it’s right on the water, it’s lovely, so if you could transport this restaurant to Cornwall… I love the hustle and bustle; how busy it is Saturday all day!

Dream Brigade 

I’d have Stephane Delourme on fish, Ian Scaramuzza on meat, Stuart Pate on pastry, Dan Hine on garnish, AJ (my sous chef here) on starters and Manuel on the bar doing jamóns and stuff!

 How much contact do you have with Rick himself? Does he have a lot of input in the menu here?

Yes, we go to Padstow once a month for a development meeting, then afterwards we have a chefs’ meeting. Rick and Jack are there and we’re tasting dishes, talking about the menus and seasonality and general issues like staffing. If Rick’s been somewhere and got a really good dish, he’ll email it to the restaurant he thinks it will suit, for us to try and see how it sells. Everyone loves getting a new dish on.

The majority of the dishes here are from Rick or Jack’s books but there’s a few of mine, the sous chef’s, Paco - the Spanish guy on the bar! They obviously have to be okayed by Rick and Jack to make sure we’re not going away from Rick’s philosophy. I say to the team if they have an idea, to come forward with and show me, and if I think it’s okay, then I’ll put it forward to them and try and get it on the menu. 

Is all the produce locally-caught, locally-sourced? 

Our main suppliers are Matthew Stevens from St Ives, Cornwall. He supplies all the restaurants because he’s worked with Rick for a long time. He does source fish from all around this way, all along Cornwall and the south coast.  We are looking at other suppliers, we’re going to try and get local oysters from next door, Brownsea Island.

We’re also trying to get certain things as much as possible from local farmers. Especially for things like asparagus and that. 

Hot shellfish, Rick Stein Sandbanks
Hot shellfish at Rick Stein, Sandbanks

What is your favourite dish on the menu here at Rick Steins’ Sandbanks?

When I come in to eat, I pretty much have the hot shellfish, which is a variety of shellfish: razor clams, cockles, mussels, whelks, crab claws - everything on a big plate, steamed with a chilli, garlic, olive oil and parsley dressing. It’s just what you want to eat! It’s good - it’s basically like a hot fruits de mer. It’s quite easy to cook, but you’ve got to be careful with all the timings. It’s the same with the fish really. Some fish you think is easy to cook but there’s a very fine line of undercooking or overcooking it.

But my favourite dish to cook is probably brill truffle. It’s not actually on the menu at the moment but it’s a very indulgent, rich dish. You make a stock out of pigs’ trotters, chicken stock, shallots… reduce all of that, then you put a bit of butter in a pan with the brill, thin slices of potatoes and button mushrooms, thin slivers of truffle… It was on the menu for ages and it was a real big seller but we’ve just changed it to seafood dieppoise. The brill was probably one of my favourite dishes. 

What are your future plans?

To be fair, I love it here! We’ve been open for like 20 months now and I love the menu - the variety on there. There are shellfish and fish dishes, but a lot of meat as well. We’re very busy but it’s a good atmosphere and there’s the adrenaline rush. So, I don’t really have any plans at the moment. For me, as long as you enjoy the job and you’re happy, which I am, that’s all that matters. But who knows what the future may hold?

>>> Read more in the Heroes of the Hotplate series here

 

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th May 2017

Pete Murt, head chef, Rick Stein Sandbanks