WIN: A signed copy of The Sportsman by Stephen Harris

The  Staff Canteen


Michelin-starred chef Stephen Harris opened The Sportsman 17 years ago and it has been the UK's Best Restaurant in the National Restaurant Awards for the past two years.

Now, Stephen has published a book which takes its readers on his journey as a chef, with the added bonus of amazing recipes, all of which can be cooked at home!

“Don’t blow your last chance.” That was Stephen Harris’ reply when I asked him the key to his success. And in essence that is what his first book is all about – dedication, hard work and not giving up.

WIN a signed copy of The Sportsman by Stephen Harris

The Sportsman front cover

To be in with a chance of winning one of three signed copies of Stephen's first book, all you need to do is comment on this article 'I'm in it to win it'.

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You have until 4pm on Wednesday, October 4 to enter. All winners will be notified directly after a live draw which will take place on Facebook on October 5.

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He said: “Having had other careers I felt this was my last chance. I learnt to cook using books and I used to go to the top restaurants in London like Marco Pierre White’s or Nico’s and I would order something from their book, taste it and then go home and copy it. I got quite good, sometimes I could do it without needing the book!

“You have the memory of the taste while you are cooking, having a picture is one thing but you need to know what it tastes like.

mussel bacon chowder low res

Mussel bacon chowder

by Stephen Harris

- credit Phaidon

“It was very important to me because of how I learnt, not to patronise home cooks. So I didn’t want to simplify recipes or leave something out. I wanted to show exactly how we do it in the kitchen here and I hope that comes across.”

After being approached by Phaidon in 2015, he finally got to see the finished product this month.

“I didn’t go looking for it they came to me, that’s like most of the things with The Sportsman, we just do what we do and if people like it, great!”

“The reason I said yes to Phaidon,” added Stephen, “is they make such beautiful books so I wasn’t surprised when I saw it. I trusted them to make a good book and when I got my hands on it, it was great. When I came to read it I loved it, and even though I’d written it I really enjoyed reading it. Now I’m really proud of it.

Stephen Harris collecting seaweed

Stephen Harris

collecting seaweed

- credit Phaidon

“Initially I was going to be writing about the tasting menu which is what we got known for; making our own salt and butter, at the time that hadn’t been done before. I put all of those recipes in but I realised for a lot of customers the a la carte is very important as well. It’s straight forward food!”

The book is not just dish images and recipes from The Sportsman, in Whitstable, it takes you on a journey of Kentish terroir; through the Seasalter marshes, along the Kent coast and into the Teynham Orchards  – locality has become orthodox in Stephen’s kitchen. It also features diary entries, old invoices and menus which all cement the nostalgia that sweeps over you as Stephen reveals his history with the seaside pub as well as his journey as a chef.

“Using pieces from my notebook,” he explained. “It gives it more of a scrap book feel which I think adds an extra dimension to it.

“I set out to write a different book. I was going to be very historical, terroir – all about my food. I was going to attempt to reflect the landscape on a plate which is what I had spent the past ten years doing.

"Locally, naturally grown ingredients -I thought I was on quite strong ground with that idea but then my local farm closed after being a farm for a 1000 years and it rather changed the story as I had to keep writing in the past tense.

"I thought about another angle which was really about me and my story, how I became a chef and it made a better book. All the things I wrote in the end were things people didn’t know, I’d never told anyone that music was a big thing to me.”

He continued: “You do have to expose a bit of yourself when you do something like this but it felt like writing this just flowed really easily. When you’ve been a restaurant for 17 years and you’ve done well, people want to know what your story is.”

elderflower posset low res

Elderflower posset

- credit Phaidon

Stephen says the most emotional part of his writing journey is where the book begins, the foreword, written by Marina O’Loughlin. It was a toss-up between Marina and Jay Rayner, because they were the two who found The Sportsman very early on but Marina had an interesting story to tell and Stephen ‘was quite interested to read it’.

He said: “She’s such a great writer and she just captured the early days. She really took me back with just a few hundred words – it’s remarkable.”

The Sportsman, shares the age-old and modern techniques to perfect 50 British classics but there are also some key people hidden among the recipes for wild blackberry lolllies and salt-baked gurnard and they are Stephen’s staff.

“That was important to me,” he explained. “Most people who come to The Sportsman, old regulars, have never met me because I’m always in the kitchen. But they know my brother or Shelley Barnfather or Emma Read (both front of house). My head chef Dan Flavell has been with me since 6 months in, that’s over 16 years, and we explain in the book why we work together and how we work together. The Sportsman is just as much his story as it is mine.  

“I didn’t know what they were all going to say, they could have said ‘he’s an arse hole and I never want to work for him again’! Maybe they did but the editor just changed it!”

By Cara Houchen


The Sportsman is available now – to buy a copy visit:  


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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th September 2017

WIN: A signed copy of The Sportsman by Stephen Harris