With a name like that he could have been a rock 'n roll star. But then Rick Stein, current king of ITV's celebrity chef circuit, and the guy who has, in recent years, become a one-man British fish promotion board, probably has more fans than your average pop idol.
Given his recent BBC TV series has been hailed as one of the best-ever promotions for the UK's often forgotten regional food producers, Stein's foodie credentials are impeccable. Yet, meet him in the flesh, and you are presented with an image far removed from the manic, luvvie image of the 21st century TV chef.
At our meeting, the smart grey suit, crisp white shirt and sober tie were not what I expected. At first sight he could have been an accountant, a Tory MP or even a country parson in town for a pep talk at Lambeth Palace. Yet, when he opened his mouth I was hit by the passion of someone who has a lot to say about not only his beloved fruits of the sea, but food in all its forms.
But why, I wondered, did he broaden his telly horizons to take in a nationwide scrutiny of everything from Lancashire farmhouse cheese to Whitstable oysters? "I had long believed that there was something good to be said about the small producers of quality foods in this country. And it is the quality of raw materials, more than anything else, that counts. It was a chance to point out to viewers that we don't always have to eat hot processed foods, and that, for example, there was an alternative to cheap meat."
So given he had spent two hot summers making the series ("We didn't film in winter because things don't look so good in the rain"), what was his impression of our local producers? The answer is prompt and for the first time Stein moves into TV-speak with his voice racing up a couple of octaves. "They are very passionate about what they do, but a lot of them don't make a great deal of money. I find something very attractive about people who are not into making vast sums of money, but are into doing something properly." But then comes the surprise. Instead of a predictable tirade about supermarket power, there's a frank admission. "For me, one of the main by-products out of the series was a slight reappraisal of the role of the supermarkets. It's obvious that there's a move afoot among the big chains to champion small producers."
He relates how Waitrose had "taught him a thing or two" about local sourcing. That came when the multiple tested products from 19 small Cornish ice cream producers, and yet only one had come up with a genuine, crème Anglais-based ice cream using local materials.

Ice cream and its constituent parts
He was impressed by the thoroughness of the retailer's activity. "Most of the materials in this so-called Cornish' ice cream were from other parts of the country or the world. We need to look hard at so-called local' product to see if the parts are produced locally.
"I've heard the talk among small producers about the power of the supermarkets. But I have spoken to people like Tesco and Waitrose who have assured me that they're out to trade with producers over a long period, and therefore they are not out to rip them off."
Yet the nearest thing to a celeb chef style snort of disgust comes when I ask him about the pricing pressures on local producers: "I know that supermarketing is a pressurised business with the likes of Asda nipping at their competitors' heels. So, regrettably, prices always seem to have to be driven down and the average buyer is forced to drive a hard deal. It's a case of the supplier needing the supermarket more than the supermarket needing the supplier. That makes for an unhealthy relationship. So when you see examples of stores doing the right thing by their suppliers and being aware of the importance of long-term relationships, it's heartening. I'm glad to hear of chains like Waitrose and Somerfield buying local products."
But, like a lot of restaurant colleagues, Stein's perception is that distribution times to the supermarkets must be reduced if consumers are to reap the real benefits from fresh foods. "It's a pity some chains are still taking fish from the quayside to the multiple depot and then into the store. And it's ridiculous when you read that some produce has travelled 1,000 miles to the shop."
And, while admitting he would buy fish from "any UK supermarket" to use in his cooking, the familiar smile disappears as he adds: "I believe the quality and range of supermarket fish counters still needs a lot of work. I find some of them boring, given the predominance of farmed salmon."
But Stein's renowned role as a seafood standardbearer for nigh on 30 years really hits the surface when he asserts that many grocers are missing out when it comes to selling fish.
A distinguished restaurateur in his beloved Padstow and now also the owner of a seafood deli in the Cornish town, he has no doubts: "We need to educate the British population into wanting more fish."

To love it will be to protect it
Stein feels he has to justify his exuberance for seafood at a time when its very existence is threatened by over-exploitation. His answer is that the more we love seafood and the more we know about it, the greater will be our diligence in preserving and eating it ourselves rather than trucking it overland to continental fish markets.
But is enough being done to promote British food in general to the masses? He's back in campaigning mode again: "So often, during the TV series, we found ourselves in an area which produced something special like Highland beef, Herdwick lamb or Hampshire brown trout yet you could not buy it locally. France's appellation controleé for wine is increasingly being applied to their food and that's something we must introduce in Britain. From my side of the business, the more local food you can have on your menu, the better.
"It's quite extraordinary that we see pubs being turned into Thai restaurants. It's a condemnation of our pub cooking if they don't turn out pork chops or a grilled Dover sole now and then."
Stein is a passionate believer in food-to-go. He's adopted the idea at his Padstow deli, a unit he opened when customers moaned about the prices in his restaurant. He's already talking about tripling its size and perhaps opening even more shops.
"Actually, I don't think my restaurant prices are too high. After all, we are selling prime fish and we also deliver the service and everything that goes with it. We sell similar dishes in the takeaway for about four or five quid."
But Stein isn't about to go the way of some celebrity chefs and put his name on a range of grocery products. He admits he has had talks with a couple of supermarkets, but adds: "I don't need to do that since I have my restaurant, a successful TV series, my books and a winery in Australia. But I value my independence and I really, really care about quality. Although the big chains have impeccable quality control, when you scale things up to the production levels they require,you inevitably lose the quality I would want.
"One of the problems of getting into bed with the multiples is that you lose your independence and the ability to say come on you supermarkets, you have cocked this one up!' or, at other times tell them they are really doing a good job. In any case, if you are seen to be in the pay of the supermarkets no one is going to believe what you say about food.
"It embarrasses me that you can still hear people from abroad say Don't go to the UK for the food'. We need to be more confident about our food and shout about it much more."