Published 17 August 2021
Jack and Charlie Stein speak to CODE about adapting to a new hospitality industry, and about how we will never take the industry for granted again.
Jack: It showed how fragile our resource base is. Both Brexit and Covid have put a massive strain on our suppliers, staff, and logistics to get products to us, and that has been a real eye-opener. Some issues were predicted like Brexit, and some not, like covid. But the positives are that we’ve realised what a fantastic, hardworking, and creative industry we are in and have fought hard and long to have a hospitality sector to go back to. We hope the public realise that we are not a low skill sector, but actually a huge part of the economy and people’s lives that was missed and is thankfully returning to now.
Charlie: I have always been passionate about the hospitality industry, but the last 18 months has made me value it even more. Hospitality is a crucial part of our everyday lives, both for those working in it and for customers, uniting family and friends. It is something lots of us won’t take for granted again.
Jack: I actually quite like Zoom meetings as it means we can be flexible on where we do them. They can be done in the restaurant meaning any issues that come up can be quickly dealt with, or at home allowing more time to be spent with family.
Charlie: The hardest thing about being in lockdown has been not being able to taste wines with my teams, attend tastings or visit wine regions & producers. I’ve felt very unconnected to the product and the people behind it.
Jack: Everyone has reappraised what we think of our contributions to hospitality. Personally, I find myself championing my suppliers and other restaurants more because I know I have a voice that should be harnessed to do right by my colleagues, especially those in central city locations that are taking longer to get back on their feet, but most importantly for the late-night economy. The late-night sector is going to be the last to get back to normal but when it does, we will be trying to drink as many negronis as possible!
Charlie: It has its benefits; you can trust your family and you’ll always get to the right decision eventually. We work together as directors of the business, and I know that we are all making sure that our duty to the company is honest, as we have lived and breathed it all our lives.
Jack: I only rarely charge my kids for dinner! Nah but seriously, my food is simple, and I like to try things out on the family so it doesn’t differ much. I also raid the restaurant for ingredients, so we do eat well. The act of cooking for both is also psychologically very similar. You can have worked all day, and someone says that’s the best turbot they have ever eaten, and it makes it worthwhile, similarly seeing the family sat down eating together gives me the same feeling.
Jack: I was born here; I can surf and work in the same day and the ingredients and other chefs down here inspire me constantly
Jack: Yeah, I did 2 degrees to make sure, but I realised I wanted to cook at that point. It may have been the diet of kebabs and Stella that did it or maybe a deep-lying passion for food, dad would say the latter!
Jack: I am not a trailblazer in food, I like simple ingredient-driven food. I guess I am someone built on legacy as we are the next generation. Sustainability is so important to both us and our customers, but now with Brexit and all that has meant for our farming and fishing, I can’t help but think it’s taken a backward step to simply buying British. Both are equally important as there are real humans in our supply chain, but if you ask me, I think the EU was doing a good job in standards and sustainability and I wonder if the UK will be able to do the same on its own in the short term.
Charlie: I spent some time in the kitchens in Padstow when I was younger which I enjoyed but it wasn’t for me. At first, I wanted to get into TV production and went out on one of Rick’s programmes in Southeast Asia but I wasn’t so good at that. Pete the sound man noticed that I had been talking about wine a lot so he said perhaps you should join the wine trade. So, I did. Thanks, Pete!
Charlie: Following that trip, I was keen to get really involved so I started watching a lot of Jancis Robinson’s shows from the 80s, as well as Big Wine Adventure from Oz Clarke and James May. I then got my head in the wine books and started focusing on my palate and knowledge, eventually getting to where I am now.
Charlie: I normally asked these questions. How fresh is it? Is there plenty of acidity? What does the label look like? And most importantly, if I was at the seafood restaurant and drinking this, would I want to finish the whole bottle.
Charlie: You must serve red wine with meat and white with fish. This seems to be a uniquely English misconception; on the continent they eat fish with a light red wine all the time.
Charlie: It’s always been our lifestyle, growing up in restaurants, travelling for food, visiting wineries and food markets all over the world, I’m still living that lifestyle.
Charlie: Generally, the food should always lead. Exception being if you have a very, very special bottle of wine.
Jack: Chefs lead trends, customers lead success or failure of the business.