My Secret Life: Rick Stein, chef, 63

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The Independent Online

My parents were ... sympathetic and liberal; they were both good cooks who loved to travel, but were a bit bonkers.

The house I grew up in ... was a Cotswolds farmhouse. It was actually two farm cottages which my parents had joined together. It had a large living room and an open fireplace which smoked all the time; there were large loudspeakers built into the window seat which would constantly emanate Italian opera, which was always one of my father's greatest passions.

When I was a child I wanted to be ... a fox catcher. I always carried a blue stick.

If I could change one thing about myself ... I'd stop pretending to be so nice.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at ... plumbing. I plumbed in all the equipment for the first incarnation of the Seafood Restaurant [one of four restaurants Stein owns in Padstow, Cornwall, with his ex-wife and business partner, the interior designer Jill Stein].

You may not know it but I'm no good at ... decorating Christmas or birthday cakes.

At night I dream of ... being in the restaurant kitchen on a busy night, with orders piling in and nobody doing any cooking.

What I see when I look in the mirror ... As one of my three sons used to say: "Daddy bald head restaurant".

My favourite item of clothing ... Currently it's two identical pink shirts, which I've been wearing in alternation to film the 'Italian Opera' programme – a series I'm making for the BBC.

I wish I'd never worn ... a natty waistcoat in some of my early cookery programmes.

I drive ... a small Porsche – because it fits in my tiny garage.

My house is ... a small cottage in Padstow, near my restaurants.

My favourite work of art ... is Georges Seurat's 'Bathers at Asnières', which is held in the National Gallery.

My favourite building ... King's Cross station in London.

A book that changed me ... was Tolstoy's 'War and Peace'.

Movie heaven ... is the classic late-1960s western 'The Wild Bunch'. I love the line: "I wouldn't have it any other way," spoken as they go out in a blaze of gunfire.

The last album I bought ... was the soundtrack to the film 'Crazy Heart', about a country and western singer, which includes the track 'The Weary Kind' by Ryan Bingham.

My secret crush ... is the Russian lead soprano Olga Peretyatko.

My greatest regret ... is not having become a writer.

My real-life villain ... is Hermann Goering.

The person who really makes me laugh ... is David Pritchard, who produced a number of my earlier programmes.

The last time I cried ... was at the end of an outdoor production of Puccini's 'La Bohème', which I saw recently at the Torre del Lago Opera Festival in Tuscany.

My five-year plan ... is to keep on running the restaurants, make more food programmes, slip across the world at regular intervals to find nice things to eat, and to spend lots of time in Australia [where Stein has a house, in Sydney, with his fiancée].

My life in six words ... Youthful feeling, useless, saved by cooking.

A life in brief

Rick Stein OBE was born in Oxfordshire on 4 January 1947. He has presented a number of food programmes, owns four restaurants in Padstow, Cornwall, and has written 11 cookery books. Rick Stein has three grown-up children with his ex-wife; he is engaged and lives in Padstow. Rick Stein's Taste of Italian Opera is broadcast on BBC4 on 1 June at 9pm. He will also be at the Taste of London festival in Regent's Park from 17 to 20 June

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