Origins of Jack Stein

The middle child of Rick and Jill Stein, of The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, Jack’s appreciation for Cornish produce was evident from the get-go and developed into a passion for cooking, shaped by travel. Interview by Megan Dickson.

Sunday roast

We grew up in and out of the restaurant and would often share meals with the staff, but both my parents placed utmost importance on family meal time, so Dad’s Sunday roast became our tradition. We would have different meats but Yorkshires, roasties and Vichy carrots from the vegetable garden were piled high.


In the winter, my parents would close the restaurant and we’d holiday in Australia, stopping off in Asia. One of my earliest culinary memories was when I was five: we were eating at a sea-to-plate restaurant in Bangkok, which stood out as it was also called The Seafood Restaurant but primarily because the mix of sweet, salt and spice flavours blew me away. I still remember the deep-fried fish covered in a nam jim dressing, but it was all good as far as I was concerned.

Mapusa market, Goa

Dad was fascinated with Indian food and en route to Australia we did Goa three years in a row. We loved it because we got to spend time together, with Dad leading us through the Mapusa market, all of us trying the different spices – which was intense as a ten-yearold – but being a fussy eater wasn’t an option in our family. My brother (Ed) now has an asbestos mouth!

Harold McGee

Even though I had been working as a kitchen porter since I was 12, my parents weren’t originally keen on me becoming a chef, so I went to university. There, I discovered Harold McGee’s book On Food and Cooking and it was a game changer. Suddenly you could read about the science of food, which before had been reserved for French kitchens.

La Régalade

I landed a job in Paris at La Régalade under Bruno Doucet. It was very hard work, always six days a week with 60-65 covers a night, but I loved it. We cooked regional food – modern but classic – and I learnt a lot.

Tetsuya Wakuda

His restaurant was the best in Sydney at the time and I was lucky to spend six months there, even travelling to Japan with Tetsuya. He and the then head chef Darren Robertson were hugely influential to me

San Sebaastián

I went there on my own to surf and fell in love; it’s a chef’s dream. You’ve got incredible ingredients, pintxos bars and Michelin-starred restaurants all together like a never-ending tasting menu. Spanish cuisine is so approachable and they are not afraid to reinvent themselves. I’ve been back five or six times.

Finger limes

Unbeknown to me, I had used these at Tetsuya’s but rediscovered them while filming Born to Cook in Australia. Long fruits filled with small spheres that resemble caviar, they add an amazing pop of acidity. The flavour is something else.

Cornish produce

In Cornwall, seasonality is a shared ethos. Back in the day, you couldn’t even get fresh parsley, so we’d eat whatever was grown. Our producers are second to none – some have been family-run businesses for generations. Philip Warren Butchers are the best in the world in my opinion, and that’s before you even consider the fish and shellfish. There’s nothing like it.


A recent inspiration for me, I really admire Tomos Parry. At Brat, he’s cleverly taken the idea of open-fire cooking, similar to the Basque Country technique, and uses it to cook whole turbot. We are a seafood restaurant of 45 years and we don’t even have this on the menu that often. Brat is just brilliant.

Soy sauce

The one ingredient I couldn’t live without? Soy sauce. A splash can add depth and a hit of umami to everything from spaghetti Bolognese to gravy. I use it religiously.

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