Growing up around British food royalty clearly had its impact for chef Jack Stein, son of renowned English maestro, Rick Stein. Though following in his father’s footsteps wasn’t always a given, the keen surfer, travel lover and executive chef of the family’s restaurants recently spent time in Australia filming his very own cooking series, Born to Cook: Jack Stein Down Under.
Exploring Western Australia’s beautiful coastline and combining his love for the ocean, and the fresh seafood it produces, the show sees Jack and his father meeting the passionate producers and makers behind the state’s food scene, cooking up inspired dishes as they go. Proving his love for the region, Jack Stein will appear at the Margaret River Gourmet Escape for the second year in a row, from November 16 to 19.
We caught up with him for the current edition of Travel ideas: UK to talk travel tips, favourite London haunts and why home in Cornwall keeps him coming back.
1. Where in the UK did you grow up? What are your best/fondest memories?
I grew up in Cornwall in the south west of England. In many ways, it's similar to the south west of Australia: great food, beaches and produce. The weather, wine and surf aren't quite the same though! My earliest memories are definitely of the beach and the sea; we lived right by the beach growing up. That, and of course, seafood!
2. Where do you live now and why do you love it?
I live a few miles away from where our restaurants are in Cornwall. I love it because it’s close to family, work and of course the beach. I can surf before work and my walk my dog – he loves the sea.
3. Have you always wanted to become a chef like your father?
No, not really, I have always worked in the business [Rick Stein’s restaurant group] but went to university, got a psychology degree and did work experience in the city. But I missed the beach, and I love cooking.
4. Who is your biggest influence?
Mum and Dad.
5. What’s the first thing you do when you arrive in the UK? What’s the first thing you eat?
Hopefully it’s a Sunday because I’d head to Hawksmoor for a roast. They’re a great company and the roast is unbelievably good. Any other day of the week I’d go to one of the many restaurants using great British produce to do world food. Chick ‘n’ Sours, Black Axe Mangal, Breddos Tacos, som saa, Temper, Hoppers and Koya Bar are always on my list in London.
6. Where would you go for a special occasion?
[Heston Blumenthal’s] The Fat Duck in Bray. The revamp has been incredible and it has evolved beyond the dishes that defined it before. The story is so much fun and it is really the best way to spend several hours at lunch.
7. What’s your go to for a casual meal or catch up
The Drapers Arms in Islington. It’s a classic British pub, with great food and a great wine list.
8. What’s your favourite thing to do on a sunny Sunday in London or Cornwall?
If I know it’s going to be sunny, I’m back to Cornwall to go to the beach and have a surf if there are waves.
9. What do you do in down time/to relax?
Surfing, walking the dog and drumming.
10. What are your travel tips for the UK?
Try to visit some producers as well as restaurants. If you enjoy a meal, ask where the producer is and if you are visiting, try to spend some time there. We have loads in Cornwall who love to see food tourists. It’s like the cellar door of a winery!
11. What are some of your favourite destinations?
Sumatra, it’s very underexplored and like living in the jungle. I love Scotland, especially in the winter. Edinburgh has some great restaurants such as Ondine. And, of course, to watch the rugby.
12. Your best travel tip?
As long as you have a passport and a credit card, you’re all good!
13. What was your favourite part of filming Born to Cook in Western Australia?
The people we met, the producers, are all the kind of people you want to have a beer with. Plus surfing with Taj Burrow was pretty epic; they say never meet your heroes but that’s not the case in this instance!
14. Favourite thing about travel and food?
They go so well together and you get to find out much more about culture and local knowledge if you’re adventurous with your food choices when abroad. Also, that you don't even need to have a common language – food is universal.
15. You are involved in Margaret River Gourmet Escape again this year. What are you doing there?
Being Dad’s sous chef! We are doing a Sunday long lunch with Dan Gedge at Watershed Winery. Dan started with us in the UK as a dishwasher and left as a sous chef. Also the Audi Gourmet Beach BBQ and we’ll spend some time at the Gourmet Village. I can’t wait.
16. What do you love about the event?
I just love the area, meeting the people who come to visit and spending time with the producers I have met during the show. It’s also nice to have a couple of swift ones with the chefs later in the day after work is finished. It’s also great to spend time with Dad.
Jack Stein will appear at the Margaret River Gourmet Escape, November 16 to 19. Born to Cook: Jack Stein Down Under is on Food Network, free-to-air Channel 33, from Tuesday 14th November at 8.30pm, or available any time via Food Network on SBS On Demand.