Rick Stein is a prolific celebrity chef with 22 cook books and a 25-year TV series to his credit. But what does the seafood master do when he gets some time to himself?

How do you unwind?
I love nothing better than having about 20 or so family and friends over to our beach house, Rick’s Place, in Mollymook, NSW, for an Aussie barbecue.

I love cooking whole snapper with a layer of fennel between the bars of the grill.

Opening a few cans of VB, I have been a fan since my first voyage in 1967.

Listening to The Whitlams – and the ocean, perfection.

What were your impressions on your first visit to Australia?
It was in 1967, I arrived by ship at Woolloomooloo but soon found the Northern Beaches and the Newport Arms, Aussie hamburgers, chocolate malted milkshakes.

I was only 19 and wouldn’t have recognised fine dining if there was any, but gosh I loved those burgers and shakes.

What’s your favourite place in Australia to holiday?
Mollymook in New South Wales, it’s my wife, Sas, childhood memories of idyllic summer holidays by the sea, which have so coloured my own experience of this beautiful part of Australia.

Must-pack item in your suitcase? 
I always take a book of poems called By Heart compiled by Ted Hughes.

The point of the book is to learn them all, by heart. I’ve been working on that for 15 years

Beach, mountains or country?
Apart from occasional skiing trips to Switzerland or Austria – when I say to myself , “we must do this every winter” – it’s always the beach for me.

It doesn’t matter what country because I love to swim, particularly in cold but not too cold water.

A hotel that makes you feel at home?
Our friends Alistair and Athena McAlpine own a convent in Marittima, Diso (in Puglia), which they have converted in to a nine-bedroom hotel.

It’s filled with art from Australia, India, Africa and Mexico. The food, local cooking from Puglia, is so good that we never leave the convent or its lovely gardens to eat out elsewhere.

I love it so much that my wife, Sas, and  I have been going every July with her children for the last 10 years.

Your favourite holiday bottle of wine?
I was introduced to a delicious provençale rosé called Chateau Miravale in St Tropez. Much hyped locally because it’s made by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie .

How often would we get to see you at Bannisters (Rick’s restaurant)?
I come to Bannisters between five to six times a year. I love to go into the kitchen for a hour and just start at the pass (where the dishes are finished off). Just enjoy the atmosphere, while making a few pertinent comments.

Also great sitting at the bar with a gin and lime sorbet cocktail so people can come up and chat.

 

Rick’s latest book India: Search for the Perfect Curry is available through Random House and his memoirs will be released in October 2013.