Close Connections: Rick & Jack Stein – Dad has always been my hero
BBC chef Rick Stein and one of his three sons, company chef director Jack, discuss the close bond they’ve forged over food
Every year, Rick Stein and his sons Ed, Jack and Charlie pack up their fishing gear and head off for a boys’ weekend. With such busy lives working for the Steins’ food businesses, it’s a special time when they can all be together – father and sons, enjoying each other’s company, reforging their connections over fishing and food.
This year, they’ll be heading to Iceland, and Jack, especially, is looking forward to it because, of the four, he’s the best angler – even though he’s the only one who hasn’t netted a salmon!
Jack says, “Charlie caught a 20-pound salmon last time, and he goes on about it! So this year we’re going to one of the best places you can possibly go for fishing and if I don’t catch anything there, I might hang up my rod.”
Rick laughs, “We’re very competitive.” Once they have their catches in the bag, they cook together and chat, laugh and reminisce.
Rick rose to fame for his fish cookery, which led to his hugely popular BBC TV shows, cookbooks, plus a restaurant and pub empire (rickstein.com) that spans Padstow, London, Marlborough, Winchester, Newquay and Sandbanks. It’s very much a family affair.
Rick says, “Food as a way of bringing people together is really what all the TV programmes I’ve done are all about. You find yourself in a very convivial atmosphere to talk about anything you want to.
“When people are sitting down together and sharing an eating experience, they’re likely to be optimistic about everything. These are some of my fondest memories. Growing up, the Sunday roast was the highlight of the week, when the family would all sit down together. It’s the same with my stepchildren Zach and Olivia, as my wife Sas’s Australian family love Sunday roast. When they were very little, a single rack of lamb was enough for all of us, not any more!”
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“It was the big one because Mum (Jill) and Dad worked so much. Running the restaurant was a seven-day-a-week job,” says Jack. “Sunday roast was the meal they wanted us to eat together as a family, which I think is something that lots of time-poor families now realise is important.”
Today, a love of Thai food is what Rick and Jack share most, inspired by family holidays when the boys were young. Jack often makes larb – a very spicy meat salad. “Jack puts in so many chillies, we call it ‘dread’ food,” Rick laughs.
Jack adds, “What’s interesting about Thai food is everyone can get that balance of sweet, salty, hot and sour flavours. It really speaks to your palate. When I was filming in Bangkok a few years ago, I went to this no-name restaurant under a bridge and we had a larb which was made out of raw blood, offal, liver and bile, which gave it a real bitterness.
“We were all drinking beer but the local guy we were with was drinking whisky. When I asked him why he said it was to kill the parasites! I think that’s where I first understood that food could be both absolutely delicious and absolutely difficult to eat.”
Of course, it’s Father’s Day on 19 June, but while the occasion wasn’t such a big deal when his boys were little, it has taken on more significance since Rick became a grandfather. Jack has two kids with his partner, food stylist Lucy (the couple are getting married this summer); Ed and interior designer Kate have two; and Charlie and his partner, lawyer Laura, recently became parents. For the last 20 years, Zach and Olivia have always included their stepdad for Father’s Day, too.
Jack says, “Since we’ve had our own children, I always send a message on Father’s Day saying, ‘I know you don’t celebrate it, but happy Father’s Day.’
“Our generation of dads are probably more hands-on than they were in the past: you know, being at the birth and changing nappies. I think Father’s Day has become more important to us. I always get breakfast in bed, which is a nice touch. Lucy makes it, but one day Milo and Arla will be cooking themselves.”
Rick agrees, “I love my stepchildren and grandkids, and what I’ve learned from my own children is that kids eat everything. The trick is just to give them nice food. Then, when they grow up, they morph into these people that have a good understanding of what food’s all about. Because of that, all my sons are giving their children the best, healthiest food possible. So I know that they’ll be into food themselves when they grow up.’
The Steins haven’t yet decided what to do for Father’s Day this year, but a visit to their pub, the Cornish Arms in St Merryn, will be high on the agenda. “I’ll try to persuade everyone to eat fish,” says Rick. “We’ve got a whole sea bass on at the pub with a mayonnaise made with Pernod and chives which I’m particularly fond of.”
Jack’s suggestion for your own Father’s Day celebrations is a Sunday roast with a twist. “British grass-fed rib of beef that’s been aged well. It’s quite an expensive cut but it’s the best thing ever and the perfect way to show your dad how much you care,” says Jack.
Make Jack’s barbecued ribs of beef with béarnaise sauce.
This feature originally appeared in Good Food Magazine, June 2022.