It was not a given that Jack Stein would follow his parents Rick and Jill Stein into the world of restaurants, despite their creation of the world-renowned Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall, and a host of spin-off businesses. In fact, the couple repeatedly advised their son not to become a chef.
However, a love of food was clearly deeply ingrained in Jack’s psyche and, on graduating with a psychology degree from Cardiff University, he worked his way through a succession of kitchens in Paris, the south of France and Sydney, before returning to the family business, working his way up to the role of chef director.
In this, his first book, Jack is not only inspired by the locations in which he has worked, but also by the numerous trips he and his two young brothers were taken on by their parents for three months every winter when the restaurant closed.
Jack is not restrained by attempting to create unadulterated authenticity in his dishes; instead he draws on his travels to develop interesting flavour combinations. Hence, he has no problem in switching focus between Mexico and Thailand, and will happily serve up a gravy to accompany a Sunday roast that includes soy sauce, fish sauce, kecap manis and star anise.
Some dishes combine influences from more than one culture – as in the case of the recipe for brill tail with spring vegetables and miso, which brings together the cooking techniques of French three-Michelin-starred chef Michel Bras with flavours gleaned at Tetsuya’s restaurant in Sydney, run by the Japanese chef of the same name. Others are inspired by just one region, such as a rack of lamb with Pinot Noir sauce, which stems from a visit Jack made to a vineyard in south western Australia.
A book with foundations in a variety of locations could come across as a mish-mash, but this is not the case here. Instead, it’s a lovely collection of dishes, where none are particularly difficult, but each could work in any number of settings.
Jack has a long way to go to emulate his father’s output (25 books and counting), but he has made a fabulous start.
Jack Stein’s World on a Plate (Absolute Press, £26)