Jill Stein is the creative force behind a business empire spanning more than 35 years, with six restaurants, accommodation, a cookery school, a pub, four shops and a separate design company. But just how tough is it for women aiming for the top in the hospitality industry? What is it like working under the Rick Stein legacy? And what’s next for one of the most influential women in hospitality?
It’s a bit scary being named one of the most influential women in hospitality. But it means a lot to me. At last after 36 years I have been recognised and I’m very proud of the awards.
More needs to be done for women in hospitality. It’s been assumed that it’s quite a macho profession, because men were always in the kitchen. I’d like to see more women in the kitchen. Also I would like to see more women running restaurants, being the manager.
It’s really interesting running businesses across different areas of the industry. We wanted to make sure that everyone that comes to Padstow gets a taste of what we do, from fish and chips to the pub and the bistro and the café. So there’s a cross-section of experiences and that was done intentionally by myself and Rick over the years, so that everyone could get a taste of the Rick Stein experience.
My main inspiration on the design front is Sir Terence Conran, and out of the chefs I liked Simon Hopkinson.
I have lots of favourite restaurants. I have been to Polpo in London and I love that. I also really like Zuma and Nobu.
In my spare time I like cycling and I love walking along the coastline. Here in north Cornwall we’ve got the most beautiful coastline, particularly at this time of year when there’s not too many people around, and I go to the gym. Those are my favourite activities, besides eating and drinking!
I like all of my businesses. I know it sounds a bit cheesy, but each one’s different. I love going to the seafood bar in Padstow, but equally I love my pub, it just depends what sort of mood I’m in. Overall, it’s a satellite business but it’s all under one umbrella and I look at it as one larger business.
If my children want to carry on the Stein legacy I’m more than happy for them to do so. But I’ve always told them from the beginning that they don’t have to work in our business. It’s Rick ‘s and my business, its not theirs. But if they choose to, and one of them does - the other two don’t at the moment - then I’m behind them all the way and we will support them in every way possible.
I used to feel a bit peeved at not getting the recognition I deserved. The name Rick Stein is synonymous, it’s a brand name. But Rick and I have done everything together. I worked on the restaurant floor for 25 years while he was in the kitchen. But sometimes I think I’d rather be where I am now, not being so high profile. I’m extremely happy where I am.
My advice to a young entrepreneur would be not to be afraid of the business taking over your life. You’ve got to eat, sleep and drink it if you want to be successful. Our business took over my life for a long time and in a way it still does. And you can’t be afraid of taking financial risks. I know that’s a bit of an odd thing to say during the recession, but you’ve got to take risks as Rick and I always did.
My business is my baby, it doesn’t grow up. My children grow up, but my business doesn’t!
Next up for the business is probably a spa. We’ve bought a building next to the bistro and we’re looking to open a small spa there next year. So that will be our next venture.