Jack Stein is the middle son of celebrated chef Rick Stein. He has worked as front of house, commis chef, then sous chef for his father's restaurants, which then led to work in Paris, Australia, the Far East and Japan. On returning to Padstow in Cornwall, he started again in The Seafood Restaurant as sous chef before moving on to his current role, as head of development for the company.
Here we speak to Jack about his favourite food and wines, kitchen disasters and the influence of his father growing up.
What is your favorite dish on the menu of one of the restaurants currently?
Monkfish vindaloo. We are doing the research and development for Rick’s new Indian book, so we are developing a lot of curries! This recipe is one Rick got years ago when we used to visit Goa every year. The history of it is great, it’s a Portuguese dish that was adapted by the Goans, and its a million miles away from what you have ever tried in a curry house here.
What do you like to cook at home that isn’t made at the restaurants?
I like to make street food at home, it sounds like an oxymoron but I love things like street tacos, kebabs and satay.
What brought you to where you are today – was it a family influence or have you always wanted to work in the industry?
It’s something that you cannot escape when you grow up around a restaurant. Some of my earliest memories are of the kitchen. I tried other things; I did an intern in London and went to university and got a degree in Psychology and a Masters in Celtic history. During that time I guess I got the calling to come back to the firm!
Your father Rick has a huge interest in Australia and the Far East – has this rubbed off on you and your style of cooking?
Definitely, as a child we used to travel all the time, we would shut the restaurant for 3 months and find ourselves getting dragged all over India and the Far East but Australia was always the last stop, I loved it there, it was like the best summer’s day in Cornwall, but all the time.
What trends do you see emerging in the food industry right now?
Definitely young people with a thirst for good value, well sourced produce. Places like Pitt Cue in Soho and ad hoc pioneers like Carl Clarke are really giving the big restaurants a run for their money. I also think that there is a new way of training chefs. Science and openness have replaced a lot of the classical ways and I think you know much more at 25 than you would have done under a classical brigade system.
With the rise in social media, how important a tool do you think this is in the food industry / for building an image?
Massive, young people can generate a huge buzz about new and exciting places to eat and older chefs and restaurateurs can connect directly with the public.
Do you have any disaster stories throughout your career as a chef that you can share with us?
I was working at La Reglade in Paris and the sous chef got ill and the head chef broke his leg, all in the space of 20 minutes! I had to run the pastry section and make soufflés which a) I had never made before and b) I was clearly rubbish at. I felt for many diners that night as it was a signature dish.
In your opinion, what is one of the best food and wine matches?
Grilled lobster, chips and Puligny Montrachet. The old man (Rick Stein) gave us that at home once, I remember thinking we must be doing alright.
Do you use any particular wine in any of your dishes when cooking?
Research suggests it doesn’t matter, I think the old adage says only cook with what you would drink but it isn’t true.
Where do you tend to buy wine for yourself at home?
My younger brother Charles works for The Vintner in London, he often gets me some great wine.
Have you come across any unusual food and wine matches?
Champagne and hot curry.
If you weren’t in this industry, where do you think you would be?
I would like to be like a university lecturer and research fellow, with plenty of holiday to go to Indonesia for 10 weeks a year!