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Jill Stein and Rick Stein
When they launched their restaurant in 1975, our Special Award winners, Jill Stein and Rick Stein, had absolutely no inkling that they had created a business that would eventually be known the world over.
Fast-forward 41 years and, of course, Rick Stein is now a global brand, fuelled by a successful television and book career. The originally eatery has now been joined by a further eight restaurants, four shops, 40 bedrooms, a pub and a cookery school. And there are further plans on the horizon – a tenth restaurant will open in Marlborough, Wiltshire, later this year.
Now, one half of this famous duo remains one of Britain’s most identifiable chefs, a highly respected restaurateur and a hugely popular television presenter. The winner of the Catey Chef Award in 1999, Rick’s influence among chefs and consumers alike cannot be underestimated. With 20 years on our television screens in the UK and around the globe, and as the author of two dozen books – no doubt buoyed by his degree in English from Oxford University – his contribution to raising the profile of the British seafood industry has been colossal.
And while his career has seen his food evangelism trickle into homes the world over, Jill has slowly but surely garnered a reputation as a stylish and sympathetic interior designer, taking inspiration from her own global excursions in order to ensure their restaurants and accommodation always look fresh and inviting. Her talents led to her being recognised as one of the industry’s most influential women when she was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Women 1st Shine Awards in 2012.
As success came their way, initially through awards for the restaurant and Rick’s books, and later through wider television exposure – the first BBC series, Taste of the Sea, was aired in 1995 – the couple remained grounded.
Today’s empire is a far cry from those early days when the main focus was on simply paying the bills while they jostled restaurant life with bringing up their three young sons.
Now, directly and indirectly, they are supported by those sons: the management team includes Jack, their middle son, as executive chef of the group, while Ed, their oldest, works alongside Jill, overseeing new outlet design and ongoing refurbishments. Charlie, their youngest, supplies the bulk of the wine list for the business in his role managing the on-trade at the Vintner wine company.
The strength of the team – and the unity following the public break up of Jill and Rick’s marriage – has enabled the business to grow into what it is today. Jill and Rick were initially cautious about expanding beyond Cornwall, but the inspired appointment of John Jackson as non-executive chairman of Seafood Trading, the operating company behind the business, led them to believe that they could spread their wings. First came Rick Stein in Winchester, Hampshire, in December 2014, followed a year later by Rick Stein in Sandbanks, Dorset.
And, of course, this inspirational company has provided a fantastic training ground for chefs and front-of-house staff, many whom now run businesses of their own the world over.
For creating an enduring business that has steadily expanded over more than 40 years; for propelling fresh, top-quality fish into the mainstream; for leading the way in the creation of what is now an exceptionally strong food-led tourism culture in Cornwall; and for encouraging a whole generation of exceptional hospitality professionals – Jill Stein and Rick Stein are the worthy winners of the 2016 Special Award.
The editorial team of The Caterer, with nominations from all the Cateys judging panels