Jack Stein: Our parents were strangers most of the year
Jack Stein in The World on a Plate.Amplifier
Jack Stein is candid about the premise of his first cookbook – he almost got it from his TV legend and extraordinary father who was a traveling and chef.
“I basically stole an idea from Rick, but he didn’t really use it,” Stein said wryly.
“I’ve found that you can’t plagiarize in your own family.”
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Cod with Beets and Charred Corn, from Jack Stein’s World on a Plate PA
The 36-year-old is the second son of Rick Stein and the head chef of Stein’s empire. In Cornwall he was responsible for developing and implementing the family restaurant menu and now he maintains a collection of his favourite recipes – some borrowed, some adapted and some his own – at Jack Stein’s in the first cookbook.
His frugal idea from his father was to collect magpie-like ideas from his travels and replicate them with British products.
“We traveled the world and found these amazing recipes and ingredients,” Stein said, “but what Dad did when he came back to England was, he made it with local British ingredients.”
It’s a fusion cooking that Stein calls “very unconventional — the book doesn’t have any rules, it’s just whatever I think works”. As a result, he was clear: “If you’re a purist, this book isn’t for you.”
There’s nothing wrong with borrowing flavors – but some culinary masters might scoff at it
“People with a long culinary history, like the French and Italians, can have a big problem,” he said of picking cherries and mixing flavors from different cuisines. “What the UK and the US are doing now is reaching their level in terms of food sources, quality of ingredients and knowing the seasons, and the Italians and French have been doing that.
“I think their point of view is: ‘Our cuisine is built on these fundamentals, and you’re just working with other people to create a new cuisine.'”
“For Brits, Americans and Australians,” he continued, “our appreciation for really good food is pretty young, so I feel like saying ‘well, I love everything’.”
There is always a new country to visit and a new cuisine to try
Three months a year, starting in December, Stein’s family travels around the world together. For the other nine months, Stein’s parents were busy running their Cornwall restaurant. They were “almost strangers to their three descendants,” he wrote in the book.
He gulps oysters for the first time in France at age 4, witnesses poverty in India at 11, and continues to work in kitchens in Sydney, Paris and Switzerland – but the cuisine that surprises and interests him most is Spanish Food.
“I know it’s not very far, but when you have a long flight and you land in Singapore or Bangkok, and it’s night and you’re drinking beer and all these crazy flavors, that’s what you want. But,” he continued , “I’ve always thought of Spanish food as just tapas, with a little bit of paella.”
Things changed on a recent trip to San Sebastian with his dad to see Rick’s Spanish series: “Like, this place is spiritual!”
They dine at the famous wood-fired restaurant Etxebarri (a top 10 restaurant in the world) and the Alzac restaurant, known for its Basque cuisine, while swooning at tapas and pintxos bars.
“One day, we were eating more than I thought, and we didn’t even scratch the surface of San Sebastian, let alone Spain,” Stein said reverently.
Argentina and Brazil are close behind – although he’s just becoming a first-time dad to youngest son Milo, so fatherhood and his TV show Born to Cook are current priorities.
“I’m surfing and the surf there is great,” he added.
When we talked on the phone, he was actually watching the waves, which covered his beloved Cornish crab.
“I love crab, it’s very sustainable and there’s a lot here,” he said. “Just above the reef I’m sitting on right now, you can go down with a pole, stick it in a hole, and get your own.”
With fresh seafood under his feet, it was a miracle that he left the country.
Even Rickstein’s son is a picky eater at times
“We’re all a little bit,” he admits when asked if growing up in Padstow was a picky eater.
“Mum and dad were at work and because they were out a lot and we were with our grandma, aunties, uncles and babysitters a lot, so we really pushed the boundaries.”
However, they were “ignored for being fussy” and were “kicked out” if anyone started at dinner. “I’m going to be dumped by a lot of people,” Stein said with a laugh.
There’s almost nothing he won’t try these days, from locusts and crickets in surfing Mexico (including “delicious crickets”) to tarantulas in Laos (“This is weird, I don’t like spiders at all, that’s horrible ”). He’s pragmatic about eating insects, though. After all, “It’s normal for most people in the world, and when you first see them, they’re just kind of weird.” “
He thinks we’re on track for a battle akin to “VHS and Betamax, or CDs, minidiscs, and mp3s” when it comes to having the biggest impact on Western diets: eating insects, or going the lab-grown meat route .
“Lab-grown meat may win,” he said. “We shouldn’t eat so much meat for the environment, but everyone loves it, so it’s the obvious way.
“I know they’ve made burgers with lab-grown meat,” he continued. “I wondered if insects could be almost successful insects.”
Aside from his distaste for spiders, he has few things to hate, other than the absolute classic: “If people ask at restaurants, ‘Do you have allergies?’ I say, ‘I don’t like quiche.'”
The World on a Plate by Jack Stein, by Jack Stein, by Paul Winch-Furness, published by Absolute Press, £26. Available now.
How to Make Jack Stein’s Cod with Charcoal and Charred Sweet Corn
Quite an elegant fish dish.
“I developed this dish after Ross, the farmer we served at our restaurant, said he grew a lot of rainbow beets,” says chef and seafood lover Jack Stein, who followed in his father Rick’s footsteps.
“The cod was sweet and crunchy, the beets were earthy, and the sweet corn sauce had lots of saltiness to complement the sweetness of the fish. Charring the sweet corn would give extra flavor, so either use a blowtorch or throw it on the grill Below. The dish looks like a painting.”
4 cod fillets with skin (180 g each)
2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more as needed
200 g beets, sliced diagonally
200ml extra virgin olive oil
1. Season the cod fillets with sea salt. Heat the vegetable oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat and cook the fillets skin side down for two to three minutes, until the tops of the fillets start to turn white (this method allows the skin to slowly brown). Add a grain of butter to the pan, turn the fish over, turn off the heat, and let the fillets finish cooking in the residual heat. Check the temperature with the probe; it should read 50°C. Once the fillets have reached this temperature, remove them from the pan and let them rest. Do not clean the pan; set it aside for later use.
2. Meanwhile, make the corn vinaigrette. Shell the sweet corn and cut the kernels from the cob. Put the kernels in a bowl with the sunflower oil and a teaspoon of salt and toss to coat. Transfer to a baking sheet, place under the hot grill on the middle rack, and bake for about 15 minutes, turning occasionally, until the kernels start to darken. (Or use a blowtorch for this.)
3. Put the chopped shallots in a bowl. Add mustard, thyme, apple cider vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, garam masala and soy sauce and toss to combine. Then add the charred sweet corn to the mixture and stir. Set the balsamic vinegar aside.
4. Put the pot you used to cook the fish back on the heat. Deglaze the pan with two tablespoons of water, then add the corn vinaigrette to heat. It should take a minute.
5. Put the beet leaves in a saucepan with water to a depth of 5 cm. Cover the pot and steam the beets for a minute over high heat. Once wilted, season with salt and olive oil. Remove from fire.
6. Divide beets among four plates, season with balsamic vinegar, and place cod fillets on top.
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