Featuring Stephen Harris of The Sportsman, Seasalter, Kent
How long have you been a chef?
I became a chef in 1995 – 27 years ago.
Why did you become a chef?
I thought I might be good at it and I knew I wanted my own restaurant. I figured the only way to do it was to start at the bottom and work your way up. I had already taught myself how to cook, but I just needed to figure out how a pro kitchen works.
This changes all the time, but I like the essentials. Salt, butter and vinegar are 3 favourites – this is why I make my own.
Favourite or signature dish
My favourites are mainly fish dishes. I love cooking fish. I used to cook turbot braised in vin jaune and morels. It was special.
Favourite kitchen tool or equipment (apart from sharp knives)
I use ceramic knives as I find them very sharp and precise. I also love hand blenders as I use them all the time.
Any farmer who produces something special over and above the usual.
Any food you can’t/won’t eat
Bananas, strangely. They make me gag.
Comfort food/guilty secret
Marks & Spencer’s Jaffa cakes.
Stupidest customer or kitchen experience
I am afraid we get a lot of stupid customers, but the ones who choose to mention their nut allergy at pudding take some beating. Luckily, 95% of customers are lovely and make the job worth doing.
Since 1999, Stephen has run The Sportsman in Seasalter, just outside Whitstable. He himself described it as a grotty rundown pub by the sea. In 2016 it was voted No 1 in the UK in the National Restaurant Awards. What makes this all the more remarkable is that Stephen has had no formal training as a chef. Previous occupations include history teacher, punk musician and city financier. Not only can he cook, he can write about it too, winning the Cookery Writer of the Year award for his column in the Saturday Telegraph. He is also responsible for the recipe for the world's greatest Christmas Pudding. See Tom Cooks! from last year. Many thanks to Stephen for his time and for the recipe.
*** On The Side will return on 9 February ***