TV & Movies

Rick Stein heartbreak: How brave TV chef opened up about father’s tragic death

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Rick Stein is one of the country’s most famous celebrity chefs. He has become better known for his calm and collected demeanour than his food.

Yet, his culinary prowess is the very reason he has catapulted to broadcasting fame.

Since the Nineties, Rick has taken the TV world by storm.

He has since appeared in a string of shows and written countless books.

Food has enabled Rick to travel around the world in the pursuit of all things tasty, taking us along the way.

Rick didn’t enter the culinary world through a traditional route, though.

He flunked school and found himself on a trip to Australia shortly after his father’s death, as a 19-year-old.

The death was a traumatising event in his life and one that was, at the time, rarely spoken about, as he explained in a 2019 interview with You Magazine.

After enjoying a comfortable childhood on a large farm in Oxfordshire, a failure in academic pursuits led to his feeling like his father was disappointed in him.

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In 1965, Rick, then an 18-year-old, was working as a road sweeper in London.

One day, his flatmate broke the news that Rick’s father had died – it had been broadcast on the radio that a man had been blown off a cliff in Cornwall.

It would later transpire that Rick’s father had in fact thrown himself off – he had killed himself while out walking with his sister.

Eric, Rick’s father, suffered from bipolar disorder.


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Yet, because of the period in which he suffered, mental health was still considered taboo.

Rick explained: “When my father was going through all this, there was so much silence as far as us children were concerned that when he did kill himself it was such an enormous shock.

“It was some years after he died that I discovered that he’d tried to kill himself at least twice before. The trouble with something like that is it creates so much tension in a family and as a child you don’t know what’s going on.

“You know something’s wrong, but you don’t know what it is.

“I do think it’s generally more healthy now that, just as men enjoy cooking, they’re also prepared to talk about being depressed and full of despair.”

It is one of a number of similar stories that countless others would have experienced in the 20th century, and even before.

Up until recently, mental health has largely been considered a no-go area.

Last month, the Mental Health Foundation observed “Mental Health Awareness Week” – offering advice and guidance around issues that can affect anyone.

Travelling to Australia offered Rick an escape from his father’s death.

Here, he worked as labourer in an abattoir, and later a clerk in a naval dockyard.

After taking time out to travel in New Zealand, he returned to the UK.

And, all those years after flunking his studies, Rick made a successful application to Oxford University and gained a degree in English.

For confidential support call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email [email protected] in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK.

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