Eight years ago, Rick Stein, Britain’s most famous seafood chef, opened what has become Europe’s best seafood cooking school. Located on the edge of a sweeping bay, the Padstow Seafood School, which is staffed by chefs from Stein’s local restaurants, offers a variety of one- to six-day courses, from Classic Seafood, Shellfish, and Asian to Southern Indian, Italian, French, and Thai. Stein’s philosophy couldn’t be more direct: Nothing is better than fresh fish simply cooked. It was enough to hook me. I enrolled in his most popular course, Original Fish and Shellfish, a one-day lesson featuring four recipes—crab bisque; mackerel escabèche; warm seared-monkfish salad with tiger prawns; and sea bass with mussels in saffron sauce—dictated in part by what fishermen had landed that day. “What we’re really up to,” said our instructor, “is helping people overcome their fear of fish.” Working in pairs, the 16 of us turned out all four dishes with ease before settling down for a well-wined lunch. In the afternoon, our teacher did a demo of bourride, which he considered too complicated to pick up in one session—but I was no longer afraid and vowed to master it at home. (011-44-1841-532700; rickstein.com, from $358 for a one-day class, with lunch)
What I Learned
Flick the tails of langoustines to see if they’re still taut, which indicates freshness.
That skinning and boning a fish is easier than I’d thought. Honest.
Before You Go
Check out what’s available at your fishmonger; then you can ask your teacher to suggest substitutions for fish that can’t be found back home.
Where to Stay
St. Petroc’s Hotel (011-44-1841- 533355; rickstein.com; from $268). Several cheerful rooms at this Stein-owned hotel come with great views overlooking the Camel Estuary, and it’s a short walk to the school.