Stephen Harris, a former historian and financial advisor, is the chef behind The Sportsman, voted Best Restaurant in the UK in 2016 and again in 2017. The restaurant has held a Michelin Star since 2008 and as its reputation spread it steadily moved up the countries ‘best of’ lists.
Brothers Stephen & Philip took over The Sportsman in 1999. Growing up in Whitstable the pub was well known to them, mainly because of its casual attitude towards teenage drinking and its close proximity to the Village Hall where The Ignerants – the punk band Stephen started with his brother Christopher – would rehearse.
In 1994 Stephen decided to pursue his dream of opening a restaurant. At the age of 34 he quit the world of finance and found a job as a commis chef, learning his trade in a busy kitchen and moving up the ladder to become head chef within 18 months. He now felt he was ready to go out on his own. In 1998 his younger brother Damian had some success with his record label Skint and was able to provide the initial investment that got them the keys to The Sportsman which had suffered hard times due to tighter licensing laws & drink-driving became less fashionable in the 90’s. After an intense few days of refurbishment the pub opened on 8th November 1999 with sister Gabrielle taking the orders it was fitting that the first customer was their father Michael.
Harris uses the best ingredients available in the immediate land surrounding the pub and its seaside environs – the salt marsh lamb is sourced from the farm adjacent to the farm next door which supplies the pork; sea beet, sea purslane and gutweed is plundered from the shore and the salt is sourced from the grey sea that often peels the paint off the front of the seaside pub.
Stephen’s first book The Sportsman was published by Phaidon in September 2017 and has already been awarded the Andre Simon award for Best Food Book and is shortlisted in the forthcoming Fortnum & Mason Food Awards.