As sons of one of Britain’s most beloved seafood chefs, it’s not unsurprising that Jack and Charlie Stein have a huge amount of love and respect for the ocean.

The family’s flagship bistro, The Seafood Restaurant, which Rick and Jill Stein opened on Padstow’s habourside in 1975, has established an international reputation for imaginative cooking of the very freshest fish and shellfish.

Brought up surrounded by the ‘hectic’ lifestyle that comes with running a hospitality business in a tourist spot like Padstow, when the Stein brothers weren’t soaking up their parent’s enthusiasm for the produce gleaned from local shores, they’d be exploring north Cornwall’s coastlines on their surf boards.

‘We grew up in Trevone, which although now is very bougie, back then it was quiet and there weren't a lot of young people,’ remembers Jack. ‘There was probably a group of six or seven young people and a good handful of those would surf, so that's what we would do. We’d walk long distances to different beaches around Padstow, like Harlyn and Constantine Bay, and it kept us out of trouble.’

Great British Life: Ed, Jack and Charlie enjoy a seafood platter with their dad, chef-restaurateur Rick Stein Image: SAM A HARRISEd, Jack and Charlie enjoy a seafood platter with their dad, chef-restaurateur Rick Stein Image: SAM A HARRIS

Not only did it keep them occupied as children, but surfing became a life hobby that both the brothers, who attended Truro School, continue to this day.

‘It’s one of those activities you can kind of just get lost in it. It's very soulful,’ adds Charlie, now 38. ‘A lot of my friends looking to move to Cornwall from London worry about their children getting bored, but I tell them, if your kids get into surfing, they’ll love it. It’s an addiction for life.’

Despite growing up with a father on the verge of TV stardom, life in north Cornwall during the 80s and 90s was pretty average. While their parents worked hard, family time was always important.

‘We understood that the business was very important because mum and dad were in it a lot,’ explains Jack. ‘But we spent a lot of time with them in the winter, so it was a bit backwards from our friends. They would get weekends and summer holidays with their family, and we got Monday night and our main holiday in December.’

Great British Life: Jack returned to The Seafood Restaurant as a Commis Chef after graduating Image: SAM A HARRISJack returned to The Seafood Restaurant as a Commis Chef after graduating Image: SAM A HARRIS

While Jack, Charlie, and their older brother, Ed, who is involved in the estate management and interiors side of the businesses with their mother, would have to entertain themselves locally during the summer months, winter was all about discovering what the wider world had to offer.

‘I think the main difference back then in the late 80s was the restaurant used to close for a prolonged period over winter because there was no one about,’ Jack, now 43, adds. ‘So, we used to travel a lot in the winter, we'd go to Australia and India and the Far East and that's where mum and dad did their research for want of a better word, to build on their brand and get inspiration for the dishes.’

It was their parent’s passion for discovering authentic food experiences across the globe that influenced both Jack and Charlie’s careers.

Jack started working in the kitchens at The Seafood Restaurant during the school holidays as a porter from the age of 12, moving to front of house when he was 16. Despite heading off to Cardiff University to study Psychology and then a Masters in Ancient History, his heart was set on cooking, and he returned to The Seafood Restaurant as a Commis Chef after graduating.

He has since worked at restaurants across the world, including La Régalade in Paris and Tetsuya’s in Sydney, but returned to his home county of Cornwall to settle with his wife and two children. He has been chef director at the Stein Group, which now has 10 UK restaurants, since 2017 and in 2020 published his first book, World on a Plate.

‘It's very important to be inspired by places that you go to, whether it's food, drink, even the aesthetics of restaurants and eating with different people,’ he says. ‘But it doesn’t have to be abroad, it could be West Cornwall, travelling around the county can provide plenty of inspiration.’

Great British Life: Jack returned to The Seafood Restaurant as a Commis Chef after graduating Image: SAM A HARRISJack returned to The Seafood Restaurant as a Commis Chef after graduating Image: SAM A HARRIS

For Charlie, who used to sneak into The Seafood Restaurant kitchen through the back doors to get a taste for what was going on as a small child, it was the wines from around the world that his parents discovered (and later introduced to their boys) that piqued his interest.

‘I worked in the kitchen a bit and I enjoyed it, but I decided that I just didn't want that kind of lifestyle. I cook a lot at home, and I love food, but I didn’t see that as a career,’ explains the father-of-one, who after completing his Wine and Spirit Education Trust qualifications, went to work for The Vintner wine merchant and now, as director of the Stein Group, is personally responsible for choosing every bottle of wine that is sold across the business. ‘Wine is a big part of hospitality and as youngsters we would travel to Bordeaux, Australia and South Africa and meet all sorts of winemakers plus dad had a stake in a winery in the Hunter Valley with a great friend of his, called Len Evans. Those experiences growing up spending time in the vineyard and learning from dad’s friends in the wine trade was the reason why I got into the wine world.’

Much like their father, who has made over 30 television programmes including 12 cookery series, the brothers are no strangers to the small screen. For the past three years, Jack has featured on ITV’s Cooking with the Stars as a mentor chef and the pair both regularly appear on popular food and drink programmes like Saturday Kitchen, as well as popping up on their dad’s shows from time to time.

They have also fronted their own show Wine, Dine and Stein, which saw them tour the winelands of South Africa, as well as a recent series for the restaurant’s own YouTube channel, called Stein’s Shellfish Talks, which they filmed at The Seafood Restaurant.

Great British Life: The Stein brothers with Mum Jill, who launched The Seafood Restaurant with Rick in 1975. Image: SAM A HARRISThe Stein brothers with Mum Jill, who launched The Seafood Restaurant with Rick in 1975. Image: SAM A HARRIS

These days the restaurant, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2025, is open all year round and, while seafood may well feel synonymous with the balmy summer months, the brothers say autumn can be one of the best times to visit.

‘I think October and November are two of the best months to be in Cornwall and when the big storms come in, you can go and watch the waves,’ says Jack. ‘For me it’s the best time for a chef too. A lot of chefs focus on spring, but I think autumn is that time when you start to preserve stuff that's come in from the harvest, there’s all the wild mushrooms and pumpkins – the colours are amazing.’

‘I was always really excited about the summer in Cornwall because of all the people and the buzz, whereas autumn always felt a bit depressing because everyone has left. But since I’ve had a family, I’ve come to appreciate it so much more,’ adds Charlie. ‘My wife, Laura, loves it and my daughter was born in autumn, so it’s become so much more significant.’

Indeed, life seems to have almost come full circle and while Charlie is still based in London with his family, the idea of returning back to his childhood home is never far from his mind.

‘I love Cornwall but when I was growing up, I just wanted a little bit more action,’ he says. ‘Nowadays I get the best of both worlds because I flit between the two but I’m getting to the point where I’m really missing Cornwall in the long-term and mine and Laura’s plan for the future is to move back by the sea.’

In the meantime, the bothers have a Cornish Christmas to look forward to and all the family traditions that go along with that, including Padstow Christmas Festival and the Stein’s annual Boxing Day walk on Bodmin Moor.

‘Quite often we get lost but when we don't, there's a pub called The Blisland Inn which is the perfect step-back-in-time Cornish pub with nice ales and brilliant characters,’ says Charlie.

‘Most if not always we’ll have turbot on Christmas Eve and then on Christmas day we'll have oysters, goose and sometimes Four Rivers beef from Launceston. We never have turkey,’ adds Jack.

‘And then we have lots of cheese and wine – dad has this tradition that he always opens a bottle of sparkling shiraz on Christmas Day,’ continues Charlie.

It all sounds wonderfully atmospheric but then you would expect the family would have learnt a thing or two from almost 50 years in the hospitality business.

‘Both mum and dad have a mantra about simplicity. Dad's mantra is ‘simple food cooked well’ and mum’s interiors and restaurant design philosophy is, again, very simple,’ explains Jack. ‘We're not reinventing the wheel, we just feed people with simple, nice food and good wine. I've eaten in and been in the kitchens of 3 Michelin starred restaurants and at one point I thought that was all that I wanted to do but then I realized mum and dad were right.’

‘That's probably the number one thing they've taught us,’ adds Charlie. ‘Do the basics, keep it simple, create a buzzy atmosphere and you might just create something really good.’

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