The secret of my success: Rick Stein

Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant in Padstow has had a revamp. Tracey MacLeod finds out if it's still a good catch and, opposite, our most famous fish chef talks about his new TV series. Photographs by George Wright
"When we started the Seafood Restaurant in 1975, we weren't very adventurous. We just offered a very short menu, featuring the same sorts of dishes as everyone around us in Cornwall was serving - mussels with garlic butter, baked crab with cheese, grilled lemon sole with parsley butter. Of course, we tried to do them better than everyone else. Since then I've developed, just as the appreciation of food in this country has developed. I think I've kept pace with the change, rather than led it. More recently I've started to stick my neck out, because people expect something more elaborate at these prices. But I'm not very good at elaborate cooking - I like very simple seafood, not things that are mucked about with. People in this country are terrified of simplicity - we hide behind the trimmings. In Galicia, where I've just been filming for my next series, they fetishise simplicity - they don't even serve lemon or mayonnaise with their fresh seafood.

"I don't like so-called fusion food much. Food is evocative - if I'm eating clam masala, I want to be taken back to the beach in Goa. Throw sundried tomatoes in there, and the dish loses its integrity. I love the best dishes from each culture, but I think it's a mistake to try and mix them all up. Thailand and Goa are inspirational when it comes to seafood cookery. If only we used more spices! In Thailand, we filmed at a night market in Hua Hin, where I ate 20 different amazing dishes from the stalls - the street food there is out of this world, and they take so much trouble to please their customers.

"For the next series - it's going to be called Rick Stein's Seafood Odyssey - I travel round the world, tasting great, simple seafood dishes. Great food isn't about restaurants, it's about the kind of thing people like to eat at home, and listening to people talk about what they're cooking is always interesting. Even in places I'd previously dismissed, like America, I started to gain respect for dishes like gumbo, or shrimp and grits, when I began to grasp the subtleties and nuances.

"When I visited Italy as a teenager, I remember being horrified by tasting oregano on a pizza. I thought it was the most disgusting thing I'd ever eaten - how could they do that to a perfectly good pizza? Now, though, I can't imagine cooking without imported ingredients like nam pla [Thai fish sauce]. I'm going to the Magpie Cafe in Whitby tonight - that's a bloody good fish and chip shop. When it's done properly, fish and chips can be fantastic. Never mind all that rubbish about secret batter recipes. Just use simple, fresh ingredients, and fish and chips is a world-class dish."

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