Rick Stein talks about the moment his ex-wife slapped him and his second wife in the face
Rick Stein has talked about the moment his ex-wife Jill slapped him and his second wife in front of a restaurant of customers five years ago.
Talking candidly with the Daily Mail, the celebrity chef relived the moment he and his soon-to-be second wife, Sarah, were slapped in front of a packed restaurant in 2008.
It was one of a number of revealing moments in an interview ahead of the serialisation of his memoir Under a Mackerel Sky in the paper.
The chef, who has built an empire centred around his Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, also revealed how he is a major worrier, who regularly suffers confidence crises.
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He spoke openly about how he remains haunted by his father Eric’s suicide over a Cornish cliff in 1965 and his concern that his manic depression may be passed on to him or his children.
In 1997, the chef started an affair with a married Australian publicist 20 years his junior called Sarah Burns but carried on running the business he has set up with his ex-wife Jill.
However, he recalled how in 2008, it all got a bit too much for his first wife of 27 years, when she slapped them both in front of a restaurant of customers.
“I certainly would have preferred if that hadn’t happened, I can tell you,’ he told the mail.
“I remember at the time saying to Jill: ‘That was a very silly thing to do.’ But emotions were very high. It was bloody tough. It was horrid.
“But, thank goodness, time moves on. Twice now, both Sarah and Jill have been in the same restaurant at the same time and it’s been fine and nobody’s been slapped.”
The chef told the Mail how he still has repetitive fear dreams about working in a kitchen and being unable to get the food out to customers and has always been desperate to be popular.
“I pretend to be nice — I wish I could stop pretending, but I can’t,’ he said. “It makes me feel a bit wet. I’m always saying, ‘Ooh yes, I’ll do that’, ‘please let me help’.
And inside I’m thinking, what a complete idiot I am. I’m always criticising myself — ‘You’re too cautious, Rick, you’re an underachiever’.”
He continued this complex extends from his relationship with his father.
“Something went wrong between me and my dad,’ said Stein.
“He never hit me and was perfectly nice to me, but he was disengaged from me because of his illness. I always felt I had to compensate somehow to get his attention and I’ve been doing that ever since. It comes from a feeling of inadequacy — not being a strong enough person to get people’s attention.
“I know it’s not possible, but I just want everyone to like me. But it’s not possible because you can’t help do things that p*** people off, so you might as well not bother.”
He continued that his worrying extends to everything – from money to his sperm count.
He told the Mail how he was concerned the kitchen microwave was making him sterile when he and Jill were trying for the first of their three children.
“I thought it was making me sterile, so I started operating it from a distance with a wooden spoon — and suddenly she was pregnant!,” he said.
“And then I worried the children might turn out deformed and stuff. I always need something to worry about.”
Yet, despite his worrying episodes, Stein forged a remarkable career, boosted by his TV appearances, starting with Keith Floyd’s series Floyd on Fish.
“I was rubbish. I was trying to be something I wasn’t, and then one day I had an appalling hangover, I just let go and became myself and it was all fine,” he said.
And at the age of 66, he says he has no plans to slow down.
‘As Dylan Thomas said, “Do not go gentle into that good night . . .” I’m not the sort to retire quietly.’