The new head chef of Rick and Jill Stein’s The Seafood Restaurant has returned to his home town of Padstow to take up the reins at the iconic establishment. Kathryn Lewis invited him to take a seat on the food therapy couch
Which foods take you back to childhood?
Clotted cream. It was my dad’s favourite and there was always a pot of Rodda’s on the table with pudding. My mum is a great baker, so when I was young dinner would always be followed by something like sticky toffee pudding or treacle tart. For a treat she’d bake scones, welsh cakes and saffron buns.
What does home taste like?
A pasty and a pint of Doom Bar. When I was living in Dorset and head chef at Sandbanks (The Seafood’s sister restaurant), whenever I came home to Padstow I’d pick up a pasty on the quay and then pop into The Golden Lion for a pint. Pasties are definitely better in Cornwall. When I was a kid I’d go to my grandma’s house every Thursday and she’d make me one as big as a plate.
What was the last thing you ate?
I’ve not eaten a proper meal yet today as we’ve been tasting in the kitchen. We had some abalone from France, as well as fresh local oysters and Spanish calçots, so I’ve been cooking and tasting those with the team – it’s a great way to introduce the younger chefs to ingredients.
Last night I went to my good friend Ross Geach’s [founder of Padstow Kitchen Garden] house for a family roast. He served topside of beef with lots of lovely vegetables from his garden including carrots, beetroot, calçot and roasties.
What would you never eat again
I tried some weird stuff when I was in Australia and south-east Asia but there’s nothing I wouldn’t eat again. As a chef you’ve got to be up for trying new things. Rick and Jack [Stein] are the same: they’ll eat anything once.
What’s your bad day comfort food fix?
Pizza with spicy beef and lots of jalapeños. Paul Ainsworth does a great Neapolitan-style one down the road at Caffè Rojano.
What’s in your fridge?
There are always eggs and some kind of cheese – usually Cornish brie. Coming in from a late shift, the last thing you want to do is bang around lots of pots and pans, so I’ll usually rustle up scrambled eggs or an omelette and have it with onion chutney.
Which restaurants make you happy?
One of the best meals I have eaten was at Pollen Street Social in London. Like The Seafood Restaurant and Sandbanks, it’s a large venue with a great atmosphere – there’s a real buzz about the place.
I recently went to a friend’s wedding in Croatia and it was fun to try some of the original dishes that Rick has recreated in his restaurants. One was a black cuttlefish risotto and, dare I say it, Rick’s version was better.
What do you eat when no one is looking?
Babybels and Cheestrings: they’re easy to grab after a long day in the kitchen.
Is there a dish you’d rather forget?
Many years ago when I was a sous chef at The Seafood Restaurant, we’d accidently ordered too much black pudding and I was the unfortunate chef tasked with doing something with it for staff tea. I made black pudding shepherd’s pie … it didn’t go down well with the team.