A chat with Rick Stein
The award-winning chef sat down with us to talk about his career, his upbringing on an Cotswolds farm, and what he's most looking forward to when he joins Tripsmith's cruise of Venice.
Rick Stein is one of the UK's best loved chefs. He's a successful restaurateur, famous for his seafood restaurants in Cornwall's pretty Padstow. He has also made more than 30 TV programmes, including 12 cookery series, his latest being Secret France.
Rick sat down with us to talk about his career and his upcoming Tripsmiths cruise to Venice, where he'll join guests on a visit to a Venetian food market and host a live cooking demonstration, where guests will witness his remarkable culinary skills in person.
What makes Venice special for you?
I've been visiting Venice regularly since my early 20s mostly with my wife Sas. It's a bit like the Taj Mahal. I've been there a few times too and every time is like the first; breathtaking. But the best trip to Venice was when it was flooded. We waded through the city in Wellington boots, and had a beer in a bar with water nearly up to our knees. There were no tourists to be seen!
Can you give us a teaser of what you will be cooking on the trip?
I'm planning to do dishes from my book Venice to Istanbul with a couple from other trips. There'll definitely be a couple of pastas, a risotto and a tramezzini and some hot shellfish. Hopefully one of these will be grilled scampi in the shell and another spaghetti vongole. I'll need to finalise things with the head chef on board.
What do you think are the real highlights of the trip?
For me, the highlight of the trip will be to the Rialto fish market. I don't think there's anywhere with a more beautiful display of seafood in the world. But I'm also looking forward to going to Burano and maybe catching up with some friends who have a restaurant there called Trattoria al Gatto Nero.
What first got you into cooking and when did you realise you wanted to be a chef
I suppose I'm lucky in that my parents were both good cooks and much of life on our farm in Oxfordshire centred around the kitchen, so I didn't find myself really learning how to cook. I just picked it up from my Mum.
How did your career get started?
When I was 18 I was taken on as a hotel management trainee by the company that ran all the old railway hotels in the UK, like Gleneagles, Turnberry Hotel, The Midland Hotel in Manchester, the Tregenna Castle in St Ives and The Great Western Royal Hotel in Paddington, which is where I started as a chef.
But I gave it all up, travelled around the world, and went to Oxford University to read English. After graduating I started a nightclub in Padstow. It was later closed down by the police, so I opened it as a seafood restaurant and started serving dishes made with fresh, local fish, simply cooked. I'm still there nearly 50 years later.
What are some of your career highlights so far?
Winning a Sunday Times competition for the best restaurant in the country in 1986 was a definite highlight. Shortly after, in 1989, I won the Glenfiddich cookery book of the year for English Seafood Cookery.
My first television series, Taste of the Sea, came out in 1995, and that was another career highlight, as was cooking for the Queen, Jacques Chirac, Tony Blair in the early 2000s.
Do you have a favourite dish and cuisine?
My favourite dish features on virtually all the menus of my restaurants - it's turbot with hollandaise. This dish always needs to be accompanied by a glass or two of good white Burgundy.
As far as a favourite cuisine is concerned, having cooked and filmed in so many different parts of the world there are great things to say about most cuisines. I suppose my first loves were British and French, closely followed by Italian.