When Rick Stein was just 18 years old he was faced with one of the most heartbreaking periods of his life, when his father took his own life.
The 72-year-old’s dad Eric, who had bi-polar disorder, died during a holiday in Cornwall in 1964, at the age of 58. While Stein has openly spoken about the tragic time in the past, he has now revealed in a new interview with the Radio Times that he’s never fully forgiven him for it.
“It’s very hard to forgive people that kill themselves,” he told the publication, according to the Irish Independent. “I still respond to his style, his sense of humour, his sort of pleasure in things. But you realise you’ve been damaged by the same person as well.
“He didn’t really take it out on his children, he was never cruel to us. It was just that he had his own demons.”
Describing the time as a “catastrophe”, Stein said it never gets easier to lose a parent, and for him, he’s always lived with the feeling that he needs to prove himself to his father – who he described as quite “overpowering” when he was growing up.
However, while he has had to live with the pain, Stein said it has also given him greater perspective in his own life and he’s no longer scared of things that once seemed daunting in his 30s and 40s.
Stein is married to Aussie publicist Sarah Burns and has three children with his ex wife Jill Newstead. His middle son Jack is a chef and runs part of the Stein restaurant empire, while eldest son Ed works on the design side of the business and youngest son Charlie is also involved, specialising in wine.
The world renowned chef has previously spoken out about his father’s mental illness and how it affected his mother and four siblings while they were growing up. His mother had previously prevented his father from killing himself twice before.
An episode of Who Do You Think You Are found that Stein’s father had had a difficult childhood growing up in Surrey, England, after World War One, where his surname made him a target for anti-German sentiment that was rife across the UK at the time. Stein said he believes it was his dad’s tough childhood that led to him being so hard on the chef. His relationship with his father appears to understandably have affected many areas of his life, and in 2014 Stein told The Telegraph he blamed his father for his own pessimistic personality.
“He was immensely charismatic, very intelligent and very charming to lots of people, but not really to me,” he said. “I’m sure he liked me, he probably didn’t have the energy with me at home to go that extra distance to make me feel wanted and special. My second wife Sarah was made to feel special as a child, and the difference between me and her is everything. She looks on the bright side and I don’t.”
“I might be naturally a bit of a depressive anyway and I’m blaming my father. But I do believe it and I do get quite tearful when I think about my father’s death and its ramifications. If you are made to feel inadequate when you’re young, one of the things you do, if you can get away with it, is overcompensate,” he added.
The revelations are in stark contrast to Stein’s on-screen persona where he’s seen enthusiastically making his way around the world in search of new flavours and experiences. His passion for food and cooking has earned him incredible success in the culinary world, with 17 restaurants, 30 television shows and 26 cookbooks to his name.
If you are concerned about suicide in your family, friends or workplace, contact Mensline Australia on 1300 789 978, Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277 or Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 for confidential support, advice and referral that will help you explore your options.