Ahead of his spring tour, the multi-award-winning chef, restaurateur, writer and presenter shares his favourite memories from nearly 50 years of gastronomic experience and reveals why he once spent time serving drunk fishermen at 3am

What are you most looking forward to about the tour?

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. I think people will really enjoy the live shows. People love food and they’re going to hear some great stories about what goes on behind the scenes: like what the Dalai Lama knew about cooking and why a pint at 5.29pm is so important. There’ll be an interviewer and we’ll be mixing it with film clips, some that nobody’s seen before. We’ll have fun sketches of the crew and clips of my old Jack Russell, Chalky, and some of the music I’m passionate about along with poetry.

Did you always want to be a chef?

I fell into cooking really. I wanted to run a glamorous nightclub in Padstow, Cornwall, for what I suppose you would’ve called ‘the beautiful people’ back in the 70s. I don’t know why I thought there would be any of those in a tiny, Cornish coastal village. Instead, the clientele was a load of drunk fishermen, who liked the fact that I had a late license, and they could still get a beer at 3am. We ended up getting closed down so I opened a restaurant in the building, literally 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, so I knew how it worked. I also hired some great chefs I could learn from. The truth is, it was the 70s and restaurants were new so I cooked a bit and got away with a lot more than I would now. I remember once serving a mackerel dish to a customer who ended up with a mouthful of bones. He complained that I should learn how to fillet a fish before I started cooking one. It was a fair point!

When opening the restaurant did you ever envisage where it would lead you?

No, I never could’ve imagined it. One of the great things about owning a restaurant is getting to know people. We’ve had The Seafood Restaurant for almost 50 years, so I’ve known whole families through the generations, which is amazing. I’ve also had many famous customers like David Bowie and Kate Winslet who was lovely. Trevor Nunn and his wife Imogen Stubbs used to come in every couple of weeks and I would see them regularly. I went to see a play called The Score he was directing in Bath recently and afterwards he said, ‘Oh Rick, it’s such an honour that you came’ and I thought no it’s not – the real honour is that you know who I am from coming to the restaurant.

What chefs do you look up to?

I admire chefs who love good food, who are passionate about ingredients and like to talk excitedly about food – rather than the type who like to win awards. My kind of chefs are people like Rowley Leigh, Mark Hix, Henry Harris, the late Alistair Little and Anthony Bourdain, who I knew quite well.

What’s your ultimate comfort food?

A crusty baguette spread with Brittany butter with salt crystals in it, British crab and mustardy mayonnaise. Heaven.

An Evening with Rick Stein will be touring at 14 locations across the country during March

Tickets are available at rickstein.com