Rick Stein talks about fish recipes, food trends and what he plans to eat in Durban

It’s hard to find a descriptor that seems to really match Rick Stein. The self-effacing fish lover and champion of small-scale producers seems far too down-to-earth for the title of celebrity chef, but after writing over 20 cookbooks and appearing on over 30 cooking shows, his fame has failed. no doubt. He is a James Beard Fellow, an OBE recipient and even ChalkyRick’s sadly deceased Jack Russel had a small army of followers. Rick will be in Durban in November for the Good food and wine fair. Ahead of the trip, we caught up with the chef to find out what he’s looking forward to in Durbs, how he’s eating fish right now, and what little producer story wasn’t included in the final episode.

Do you still believe that fish and chips is the UK’s national dish?

Interestingly, recent surveys suggest chicken tikka masala is the national dish in the UK – in terms of popularity. But for me it will always be fish and chips, which is making a pretty big comeback these days.

Rick's Mesut Blue Fish Stew

Rick’s Mesut Blue Fish Stew

What’s your favorite way to eat fish right now?

I just toured Istanbul and I particularly like the fish sandwiches they make next to the Golden Horn. They fry mackerel fillets and put them in a baguette with tomato, onion, sumac, lettuce, lemon juice and a big pinch of Turkish red pepper flakes.

Is there someone in the food world that you would be intimidated to meet?

I have to say that I find the dishes of Massimo Bottura, chef of the famous Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy quite intimidating, but I met him at a food festival in Margaret River, Western Australia, last November and I found him delighted.

You have identified so many small producer heroes over the years. Is there a story that really stood out for you?

Yes indeed. It’s a story that didn’t make Rick Stein’s Food Heroes TV series: We tracked down a farmer of blue eggs at a time before they were available in every UK supermarket, and we were very impressed with the dedication of the lady and her little chicken cooperatives. It wasn’t until we left that we saw a brand new BMW and Mercedes in the driveway and wondered how many blue eggs you had to sell to buy one!

If you hadn’t finished in the food industry, what would your job have been?

I would have loved to be a food writer, but when I started my career in the early 1970s, food journalism was virtually unheard of.

Are there any South African ingredients or dishes that you have enjoyed (or not enjoyed) in the past?

I am very fond of snoek and I like a good braaivleis.

Rick during his trip

Rick during his trip “From Venice to Istanbul”

Something new that you hope to try when you are here at the Good Food & Wine Show in October?

I look forward to Indian cuisine in Durban.

Do you have South African restaurants or chefs on your radar? What did you hear?

Yes, Adriaan Maree, Nicholas Williamson and Annemarie Steenkamp. I read an article about them in BA’s Highlife magazine and they are ringing in my street.

What trends have you noticed recently in the food industry?

Small restaurants, exceptional hot dogs and a constant craze for local products.

What aspect, ingredient, style or philosophy of cooking remains constant for you despite all the trends?

There is nothing more exhilarating than simply cooked fresh fish.

What can guests of the Durban Good Food and Wine Show expect?

A hectic time filled with anecdotes about what it’s like to film a cooking TV series and some dishes from my latest book and my latest TV series, Venice in Istanbul. I can’t wait to come back to South Africa; it’s always so much fun.

Meet Rick at the Good Food & Wine Show at the Durban Exhibition Center from Friday October 30 to Sunday November 1. Go to www.goodfoodandwineshow.co.za for more information.

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