At first glance, there’s something quintessentially British about Rick Stein.
Like a lovable uncle with a passion for travel and cookery, he’s as endearingly English as pork pies and Cheddar cheese.
Of course, his surname is as German as sauerkraut, and if it weren’t for his Great Uncle Otto, there’s a good chance lovely old Rick would still be an obscure chef, not one of the Beeb’s favourite oven jockeys.
“I remember, a few years after my father died in the early 70s, I inherited a sum of money from the German side of my family – £10,000 from this great uncle I knew nothing about,” he recalls. “And I invested it all in the restaurant. The reason my restaurant is where it is, is thanks to Great Uncle Otto!”
Now, in this fusion of cookery sketches, travelogue and Who Do You Think You Are?-style drama, Rick sets out on his German voyage to unearth some hidden culinary gems.
In his (Teutonic) campervan, he heads to the North Sea coast, perhaps unsurprising as his passion is for fish and seafood.
He’s never happier than when he’s exploring fishing villages, bustling harbours, and noisy fish markets, so this is like a busman’s holiday.
Then he heads inland towards Dusseldorf and the beautiful Rheingau region, where he meets up with some of the German Steins.
Stein admits he is rather excited. “This really will be a journey of discovery, because despite the fact my family originally hail from Germany, it’s still unfamiliar territory to me,” he explains.
Amazingly, Stein did not originally set out to be a cook. Instead, he graduated from Oxford with a degree in English, and then made a living running a disco before buying a nightclub in Padstow. However, the business was not a success, prompting him to turn to catering.
Aside from being a fine chef, another gold star in Rick’s favour is that he doesn’t feel it necessary to turn the air (cordon) bleu with foul language or hurl cooking implements in order to get his point across.
“Frankly, isn’t the job hard enough? Do you really want a frying pan thrown at you? Personally, I don’t think you do.”