Jack Stein prepares to host Rock Oyster Festival in Cornwall

A chef in front of fishing trawlers.

Jack Stein hosts this year’s Rock Oyster Festival. - Credit: Rock Oyster Festival

Su Carroll talks to Jack Stein about hosting the popular festival amid changing attitudes to how hospitality businesses operate.

It’s been a tough time for hospitality over the past two years with restaurants and hotels badly impacted by lockdown and restrictions on businesses. Jack Stein – chef director across the Rick Stein restaurant group – knows first-hand what the impact has been, so he’s thrilled to be hosting Rock Oyster Festival this summer. 

“Food and music festivals have become very popular over the last decade,” says Jack. “Look at events like Feastival and Latitude. You can listen to music and eat great food and that’s what we are doing here.  

People heading to a summer festival.

Families are very welcome at Rock Oyster Festival. - Credit: Jon Rowley

“The oysters are fantastic, the chefs are brilliant and they want to come to Cornwall and the musicians all want to come down here. I think people come to Cornwall because it holds a special place in their hearts. We have become one of the best food events in the country.” 

You can expect to see famous restaurants popping up in the chefs' tipis, demos and masterclasses from some of the UK’s most talented chefs and long-table feasts by the Camel Estuary.  

Jack is the middle son of three and at the heart of the family empire established by his parents, Rick and Jill. He says he recognises the importance of the business to Padstow and beyond. 

“We are using our brand to support suppliers - it pulls people in and showcases other people in the local area. Mum and dad used to say the more competition, the better. If there’s only one restaurant in town, it’s not going to be that busy. You need to give people a reason to keep coming back. 

He admits that many hospitality businesses had to re-think during the pandemic. “They were dark times. We were weeks away from closing the business. As an industry, we’ve taken a long, hard, look at ourselves and we will all now approach work differently.  

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“A lot is changing. People spent time with their families, as I did, and you realise how hard it is bringing up kids. Spending 16 hours in the kitchen is a lot easier than dealing with a two-year-old and a three-year-old just asking ‘why?’” 

A chef cooking on an outdoor grill.

A pop-up by St Kew Inn will be at Rock Oyster Festival. - Credit: Jon Rowley

Jack can now look forward to spending time with the grown-ups at Rock Oyster Festival. “The festival is really collaborative,” he says. “It includes people who have been important in my career, people I can call friends, and people I confess I have not worked with before. We’re getting chefs to come and do pop-ups too. There’s a lot of creativity floating around. Hosting is great and I’m going to be there the whole weekend.” 

The line-up on Friday includes TV presenter Gizzi Erskine, head chef and owner of Ugly Butterfly Adam Handling, and Great British Bake-Off star Lottie Bedlow. Saturday’s line-up includes Rosemary Shrager, Ready Steady Cook’s Romy Gill and baker Richard Bertinet. 

Rick Stein will share the stage with Jack on Sunday when you can also see Emily Scott, of Watergate Bay, and Gidleigh Park’s Chris Eden. Chefs can be found cooking over an open fire throughout the weekend, with special appearances from Great British Menu contestants Jude Kereama and Lee Westcott. 

Jack thinks Rock Oyster Festival will put a much-needed smile on everyone’s face. “People are so interested in Cornwall as a destination and the G7 summit peaked interest from places like China and Hong Kong. We have a lot to be proud about.” 

The rock band Happy Mondays.

Happy Mondays top the bill at Rock Oyster Festival. - Credit: Paul Husband

More on the menu than oysters... 

Music is an integral part of Rock Oyster Festival and this year’s line-up includes Laura Mvula and Jade Bird on Friday, Happy Mondays and Huey Morgan on Saturday and Passenger and Rae Morris on Sunday. Also appearing over the weekend are Grandmaster Flash, Gentleman’s Dub Club and The Skints. 

Wellbeing activities and water sports such as stand up paddleboarding, yoga, surf trips, coasteering excursions and much more can be booked for visitors who’d like to take advantage of the Cornish coastline in the height of summer.  

Families and children are welcome, and can take part in bellyboard painting, circus skills, aerial yoga, foraging walks, tie dye workshops and a full programme of family fun. 

Rock Oyster Festival is at Dinham House, St Minver July 29-31.