An Education in the Life of Rick Stein, Master Chef

'We were savages at prep school'

Rick Stein is the proprietor, with his wife Jill, of The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall, where he recently opened a cookery school. His first book,
English Seafood Cookery, won the Glenfiddich Award. Rick Stein's
Seafood Lovers' Guide, was published last month, and his BBC series, of the same title, started yesterday.

Rick Stein is the proprietor, with his wife Jill, of The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall, where he recently opened a cookery school. His first book, English Seafood Cookery, won the Glenfiddich Award. Rick Stein's Seafood Lovers' Guide, was published last month, and his BBC series, of the same title, started yesterday.

Primary school: I was terribly homesick for the first two terms at Wells Court, a prep school just outside Tewksbury, Gloucestershire. There was the appalling anxiety of finding you couldn't go back home. But I'm quite good at coping with situations, and after that I did enjoy it. We built two-storey houses out of branches and leaves, and in gangs we would raid each other's houses and set them on fire. When I later read Lord of the Flies, I thought, "I've been there, been a savage!" (William Golding lived in Cornwall and used to come to the restaurant.)

From 10 to 13, I went to Wells House, the Court's bigger sister-school at Malvern Wells, where the spring water comes from. The headmaster, Alan Darvell, was very enthusiastic about the open air, and allowed us to roam over the Malvern Hills and build camps out of corrugated iron filched from farms. We used to dry old man's beard, a sort of vine, and smoke it in four-inch strips. We wore shorts and lived outside: windows open, ice on the bedclothes, and cold baths. At both schools we used to swim naked in the swimming-pools, which seems odd, looking back, but there was no underhand behaviour.

Secondary school: I worked reasonably hard and passed the Common Entrance to Uppingham. My brother was at Winchester but I was appalled when I went round it to find that they were still washing in bowls filled with water from jugs. There was always the fear of older boys. They had almost the power of life and death; there was the strange business of beating younger boys. Stephen Fry is an old boy and everything in his autobiography is true. My real enjoyment came from playing rugby and I realised that doing well in sports was a bloody good way of getting on.

I'm not A-stream, but I got eight O-levels; I worked quite hard. I started to come adrift after that. At 16, I started to question the whole values of the public school. I listened to rock'n'roll. I got involved for about a year with a girl who worked in one of the houses as a waitress - we called them "maids". We used to meet in a barn down the road.

I took A-levels in English, history and geography. Me and my chums actively enjoyed not doing the work and I failed them all. Then I went off to a crammer in Brighton and got an E in English and history.

After I left there, I was going to be a hotel manager and worked for six months as a chef in the Great Western Hotel, Paddington. Then my father died; he committed suicide. Everything came to a crisis for me and at 19 I went to Australia, where I did all kinds of labouring jobs. I worked in an abattoir and as a clerk in a naval dockyard. Being on my own, I read a great deal and felt I had not given academe a chance. I applied to Oxford and got in.

University: I edited the student newspaper; Peter Stothard, now editor of The Times, was on Cherwell at the same time. I had some very good tutors, who included John Bayley [professor and husband of the late Iris Murdoch], but I only got a Third in English.

I can't say that Oxford was the making of me, but I had a great time. We did cook quite often. It is such a pity that people regard cooking as a manual job which has to be got over with. There is a lot to being a cook; it's not just a matter of frying onions!

Jontysale@aol.com

News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SThree: Recruitment Consultant (Trainee / Experienced)

£18000 - £27000 per annum + doe OTE £45K: SThree: SThree are always looking fo...

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are a recent psychology graduate ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Graduate Graphic Designer

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Largest Independent Motor D...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own