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The Caterer

Rick Stein

12 May 2005
Rick Stein

Overall ranking: 14

Chef ranking: 4

Snapshot

Rick Stein is the self-taught celebrity chef and restaurateur whose Seafood Restaurant put Padstow and North Cornwall firmly on the map. Stein's passion for seafood helped spark a similar appetite in the public, which has lapped up the nine books he has written since 1988 and the six television series (12 if you count repeats) that have been broadcast, since 1995.

Career guide

Stein, who was born on Oxfordshire in 1947, moved to Padstow in North Cornwall in 1965. He partially completed a hotel management traineeship with British Transport Hotels at its Great Western hotel at Paddington, London, before taking an English degree at Oxford.

Returning to Padstow, he opened a quayside nightclub known for its disgusting freeze-dried curries and its frequent brawls, which led to its closure by the police within a year. Stein converted it into a small harbourside bistro - the Seafood Restaurant - in 1975.

It was joined by a café in 1995, St Petroc's Bistro and Hotel in 1997 and a deli in the late 1990s. Stein has since added the Padstow Seafood School and Stein's Gift Shop (in 2000), St Edmund's House in 2001, a patisserie in 2003 and a fish and chips shop in 2004.

What we think

When Stein won the 1999 Catey Chef Award, the judges described him as a "true chef's chef" and he was voted the Chef's Chef the following year by the AA. His cuisine is marked by simply-cooked, top-notch ingredients, much of it sourced daily from local fishermen.

For 20 years he remained something of a foodie and industry secret until his friendship with TV chef Keith Floyd catapulted him into the national consciousness with his first TV series, Taste of the Sea, in 1995.

Since then, his three AA-rosette seafood restaurant has scooped the Good Hotel Guide's Cesar Award (in 1995), the Egon Ronay Restaurant of the Year accolade in 1996, and the AA's English Seafood Restaurant of the Year award in 2002.

Stein's media career has made him rich - his fortune has been estimated at £10.4m and his annual income at £1.05m. And his passion for food and support for high-quality, small-scale producers has opened the eyes of the public to the rich heritage of British food - a factor that won Stein the BBC Food Personality of the Year award last December.

His impact on local tourism has been massive. The old English Tourism Board gave him an Outstanding Contribution to Tourism award in 1988; he won a special award in the Cornwall Tourist Awards of 2003; and his services to West Country Tourism were recognised with an OBE in 2003.

Stein has also actively worked to raise standards. He opened his seafood cookery school in 2000 and, in 2004, launched an interactive training programme to improve health and safety practices in catering. He is also involved in local and national campaigns to raise standards among fishmongers and to conserve endangered stocks.

In 2003, Stein looked set to expand into nearby Newquay when he bought the 42-bedroom Rocklands hotel but he pulled out last year as costs escalated from £1.5m to £6.5m. However, London remains an option for expansion as Stein has expressed a desire to open an outpost in the capital in partnership with others.

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