Chef Watch Featuring Stephen Harris of The Sportsman, Seasalter, Kent

Chef Watch

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.

Favourite ingredient

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.

Food hero(es)

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 ***







1 Comment

  1. Colin Boyle on 20th January 2022 at 12:06 pm

    Can see you with a restaurant in Largo, Tom. The Law, be a good name!
    On the side that turbot on Rick Stein cooked by the G7 chef looked raw, only a brief view and Rick looked pretty sheepish in praising.

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