'It was very scary' - Rick Stein almost lost restaurant empire during Covid pandemic

Chef Rick Stein speaking to ITV West Country News in Padstow
The family’s empire has been buoyed by the furlough and the success of the Stein’s At Home seafood meal boxes. Credit: ITV News

Cornwall’s most famous chef Rick Stein has said he “nearly lost the whole business” during the Covid pandemic last year.

Rick told The Times his restaurant empire, which is run from Padstow and employed 600 people at the time, was on the brink of bankruptcy.

The 74-year-old chef and TV presenter splits his time between Australia, where he lives with his wife Sarah, and Cornwall.

For the five months after Covid-19 struck in March 2020 he found himself on desperate Zoom calls from the other side of the world as the future of his businesses hung in the balance.

He told the national newspaper: “It was very scary and we nearly lost the whole business. And it’s certainly not just my work we’re talking about — Jill (Rick’s ex-wife and business partner) and the children have put so much into it too. Not being there was horrible.”

While most of the Stein businesses survived the financial impact of the pandemic, there were two losses – his signature restaurants in Porthleven and Falmouth.

Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant in Padstow has an international reputation for serving fresh fish and shellfish.

However, the family’s empire has been buoyed by the furlough and the success of the Stein’s At Home seafood meal boxes.

The business has already reported 30,000 bookings at its restaurants for the summer ahead.

Rick added: “It would have broken my heart to lose it all. So yes, I am very grateful to be coming through it.”

With many exports of UK shellfish to the EU currently banned, Rick has been using some Cornish shellfish in the Steins At Home food boxes and also been making YouTube videos showing how to prepare lobsters, crabs, oysters and mussels.

He said: “It’s so frustrating. If for any reason France or Spain weren’t able to export their seafood they’d just eat it all.

"Here we don’t see what we have. It’s absurd. British seafood is so bloody lovely and I wish people could see that.”

Restrictions on hospitality eased in England

A change in hospitality restrictions means pubs, restaurants, cafes and bars will now be allowed to host parties of up to six, or of two households, in outdoor areas.

This time there will be no requirement for a substantial meals to be served alongside alcohol, and no curfew, but the requirement to eat and drink while seated will remain.

While you won't need to social distance from those you're in attendance with, the two metre rule is still in force for anyone else you may come into contact with while there.

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