Stephen Harris

Episode: Eleven

Stephen is Chef Patron of Michelin-starred pub The Sportsman in Seasalter, just outside Whitstable in Kent. A self-taught chef who quit his job in finance to persue his dream, Stephen heralds a lemon tart served to him in two Michelin-starred restaurant Nico in 1992 as changing the course of his life. Working as a financial adviser, food was slowly taking over his life as he passionately researched provenance of ingredients, cooked elaborate dinners for friends and researched and ate at new Michelin-starred restaurants.

The perfection of the lemon tart at Nico transfixed him and set him on the road to becoming a chef, as he soon discovered that he was able to recreate meals he had been served based on taste and memory. Stephen taught himself every aspect of cookery –from classic French sauces to visiting every multi-Michelin-starred restaurant he could. Within three years, at the age of 34, he quit his job to work as a commis chef and within a year and a half he was head chef. In 1999 he came across The Sportsman, which Stephen has described as a ‘grotty rundown boozer by the sea’. Located on the Kent coast surrounded by salt marsh flats (which were originally part of the kitchens of the Archbishop of Canterbury and are listed in the Domesday Book), the pub was in a mess, but, with Stephen at the helm, the turnaround has been remarkable. The Sportsman has held a Michelin star since 2008 and was named top gastropub in Britain in 2015.

Nearly everything on the menu is sourced locally within five square miles, and ties in with Stephen’s interest in ‘terroir’ – the environment: salt marsh, salt marsh lamb, shellfish, fish, wild duck, Kent’s soft fruit, interconnected with the area. “Following the monks’ example,” says Stephen, “we let the area around the pub dictate what we cook.”

Stephen Harris’s Wine Choice

The village of Vosne (pronounced ‘vohn’) makes the greatest Pinot Noir in the world. Muscular and packed, they’re also elegant and refined and capable of great evolution. They’re also fickle, and everyone thought 2013 was a washout, but what was made turned out to be balanced and elegant. Boeuf Bourguignon is the way to go. Or some variation. But keep it simple for the wine to shine.