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

Sport
Australia vs New Zealand live
cricket Follow over-by-over coverage as rivals New Zealand and Australia face off
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
Life and Style
Researchers found that just 10 one-minute swill-and-spit sessions are enough to soften tooth enamel and make teeth vulnerable to erosion
health
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Regent Street Cinema’s projection room in the 1920s
film
News
Leah Devine is only the ninth female to have made the Young Magician of the Year final since the contest began more than 50 years
peopleMeet the 16-year-old who has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year
News
Jonathan Anderson was born in Northern Ireland but now based between London, where he presents a line named JW Anderson
peopleBritish designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant - IT Channel - Graduate

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a Value-Added I...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Guru Careers: Junior Web Developer

£18 - 22k (DOE) + Benefits & Stock Options: Guru Careers: A Junior Developer /...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing