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Rick Stein talks fish recipes, food trends and what he’s planning to eat in Durban

It’s hard to find a descriptor that really seems to fit Rick Stein. The self-effacing lover of fish and champion of small producers seems far too down-to-earth for that title of celebrity chef, but after penning over 20 cookery books, and appearing in over 30 cooking shows, there’s no doubt about his fame. He’s a James Beard winner, an OBE recipient, and even Chalky, Rick’s now sadly deceased Jack Russel, had a small army of followers. Rick will be in Durban this November for the Good Food & Wine Show. 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 which small producer story didn’t make it into the final episode.

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

Interestingly, recent surveys suggest that 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 quite a big comeback these days.

Rick's Mesut's blue fish stew

Rick’s Mesut’s blue fish stew

What’s your favourite way to eat fish at the moment?

I’ve just been filming in Istanbul and I’m particularly fond of the fish sandwiches they do beside the Golden Horn. They fry fillets of mackerel and put them in a baguette with tomato, onion, sumac, lettuce, lemon juice and a big pinch of Turkish red-pepper flakes.

Is there anyone in the food world you’d be intimidated to meet?

I must say I find the dishes of Massimo Bottura, chef of the renowned Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy pretty intimidating, but I met him at a food festival in Margaret River, Western Australia, last November and found him a delight.

You’ve identified so many small-producer heroes over the years. Is there one story that’s really stuck with you?

Yes, indeed. This is a story that didn’t make the TV series of Rick Stein’s Food Heroes: we tracked down a producer of blue eggs at a time before they were available in every British supermarket, and were much taken with the lady’s dedication and her tiny chicken coops. It was only when we were leaving that we saw a brand-new BMW and Mercedes in the drive and wondered how many blue eggs you needed to sell to buy one of those!

If you hadn’t ended up in the food industry, what would your profession have been?

I would have loved to have been a food writer, but when I started my career back in the early 70s food journalism was virtually unheard of.

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

I’m very partial to snoek and I love a good braaivleis.

Rick during his 'From Venice to Istanbul' trip

Rick during his ‘From Venice to Istanbul’ trip

Anything new that you’re hoping to try when you’re here at the Good Food & Wine Show in October?

I am very much looking forward to the Indian cuisine in Durban.

Are any South African restaurants or chefs on your radar? What have you heard?

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

Which trends have you noticed in the food world recently?

Small-plate restaurants, exceptional hotdogs and a continuing enthusiasm for local produce.

What one aspect, ingredient, style or ethos of cooking remains constant for you despite any trends?

There’s nothing more exhilarating than fresh fish simply cooked.

What can guests at the Good Food and Wine Show in Durban look forward to?

A riotous time filled with anecdotes on what it’s like filming TV cookery series and some dishes from my latest book and TV series, Venice to Istanbul. I’m looking forward to re-visiting South Africa; it’s always so much fun.

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

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