WITH more than 25 cookery books, 30 TV shows, including 12 cookery series, 10 restaurants and several hotels, Rick Stein is one of the country’s best-known and loved chefs.

Now the chef, restauranteur, writer and presenter is bringing his one-man show to Bradford.

An Evening with Rick Stein sees the culinary legend dish-up memories from his 50-year career. He’ll reveal how he established his restaurant business and also on the menu are “revelations from the kitchen, musical delights, poetic interludes and stories of global adventures”.

“Touring the country with a show sounds like being in a band on tour - ‘Oh it’s Liverpool, it must be Saturday’, sort of thing,” smiles Rick. “I’ve discovered of late that I love talking to a live audience. I’ve got lots of stories which people seem to enjoy: like why my nightclub got closed down in the 70s, what was Keith Floyd really like, what the Dalai Lama knew about cooking and why a pint at 5.29pm is so important.”

Cooking is only part of Rick’s story: “When I first met my wife and she watched me on television, she told me ‘When you do the cooking I fast forward - it’s the bits in between that I’m most interested in’,’’ he says. “I seem to have an ability to communicate well with people. I know some performers who say the best thing about being on stage is that feeling of connection with an audience and that’s what I’m most looking forward to.

“People love food and they’re going to hear some great stories about what goes on behind the scenes and about people I’ve met over the years.”

He has no shortage of stories - not least the one that started it all, when he first went into the restaurant business, almost by accident. “I fell into cooking really,” says Rick. “I wanted to run a really glamorous nightclub in Padstow, for what I suppose you’d have called ‘the beautiful people’ back in the Seventies. I don’t know why I thought there’d be any of those in a tiny, Cornish village. Our clientele was a load of drunk fishermen, who liked the fact I had a late licence and they could get a beer at 3am. We ended up getting closed down. So I opened a restaurant in the building, just to pay the bills. I could cook a bit, my mum was a good cook and I’d worked in a hotel kitchen in London. I hired great chefs I could learn from. It was the 70s, restaurants were new and customers were quite unsophisticated so I got away with a lot more than I would now. I once served a mackerel dish to a customer who ended up with a mouthful of bones. He said I should learn how to fillet a fish before I started cooking one. Fair point!”

That little restaurant became the internationally renowned The Seafood Restaurant (now in a different venue, nearby) and Rick Stein, now 76, became a household name. He says: “One of the things that’s great about owning a restaurant is getting to know people. We’ve had the restaurant for nearly 50 years so I’ve known whole families, through the generations. I’ve also had many famous customers like David Bowie and Kate Winslet, who came just after she’d made Titanic. Ian McKellen was filming a movie in Port Isaac and the crew was booked in for dinner. I was in Italy at the time. Apparently they were late arriving, as film crews always are. We had a particularly stroppy pastry chef, who decided it was outrageous they were so late and told the chef to close the kitchen! Can you imagine turning down Sir Ian McKellen because he turned up a bit late? I’m not sure he’s ever forgiven me.”

Rick’s show includes film clips of his beloved Jack Russell, Chalky, as well as music he loves, and even poetry.

Rick no longer cooks in the restaurants, and is based for much the year in Australia, where his wife Sass is from.

“I’m still very involved with the business,” he says. “I liaise with the chefs, discuss the menus and come up with new ideas sometimes. My son, Jack, does a lot of that too, as chef-director of the restaurants. It’s exciting when we can put new species on the menu, particularly as people’s knowledge of food is so good now and customers are willing to try new things. The latest arrival is Cornish Blue Fin Tuna Now it’s no longer endangered and there are very strict regulations to stop over fishing, so we can have it on the menu in small quantities. It’s imperative we find ways to catch and eat fish without depleting stocks. My brother is a neurophysiologist and says Omega 3, found in oily fish, is essential for brain health. We need to be eating fish for nutrition as well. We just have to do it in the right way.’

It’s no surprise that Rick’s last meal would be a fish dish: “It would be turbot, the best fish in the sea in my opinion, with a classic hollandaise sauce.”

And his go-to comfort food? “I think British brown crab is the best anywhere in the world and I want it with

my homemade mayonnaise. I make it like you get in Brittany, heavy on the mustard, how I remember it from when I used to go on holidays and there were fish restaurants everywhere. I make sourdough bread at home but when you go to France you realise how good a simple French baguette is and that’s what I want with my crab.

“So that’s it - a crusty baguette with Brittany butter, British crab and mustardy mayonnaise. Heaven.”

* Rick Stein is at St George’s Hall on Friday, March 22. Call (01274) 432000 or visit bradford-theatres.co.uk