The second Steven arrived in Cumbria he fell in love with the county, and has remained there ever since. After The Brown Horse he and his wife moved two miles down the road to the now famous Punch Bowl Inn, where they spent then next ten years. During that time the Punchbowl became one of the best country pubs in the UK, known for its incredible food. It wasn’t until 2003 that Steven moved on to begin working with cookware company Lakeland.
‘We were contacted by Lakeland who asked if me and my wife could set up and run their new flagship café at their largest store in Windermere. We were involved in the design and structure of the business, and it’s been very successful over the years.’ On top of this, Steven also consults at Hawkshead Brewery, Askham Hall near Penrith and Cranstons, a local butchery with its own food hall.
Steven’s cooking style has changed drastically over the years, but the ethos behind his food is still the same as when he was at Le Gavroche. Quality, consistency and good service are things he holds in high regard, and while his dishes may have changed, the care and attention that go into them certainly haven’t.
‘Obviously I can’t use the top end ingredients we worked with at Le Gavroche, so throughout my years in Cumbria I’ve always used cheaper cuts and fish,’ he explains. ‘We use Cumbrian produce wherever possible; there’s great pheasant, amazing lamb, venison and we used to use quite a bit of char from Lake Windermere. Lyth Valley damsons are incredible – I introduced Michel Roux Jr to them when he came up here years ago and I think he still uses them to this day in a foie gras dish.’
It’s safe to say that Steven’s working life is now much more relaxed than the years he spent in a three-starred kitchen, but he still misses the rush of cooking at such a high level. ‘I do miss the days at Le Gavroche – working with those incredible ingredients was great, and whenever I do special dinners now I love getting my hands on things like scallops, lobsters and turbot,’ he says. ‘But if you speak to anyone who worked there when I did, they’ll all tell you the pressure was immense. It’s a massive load to carry on your shoulders. The long hours also mean it’s a bit of a young man’s game; like footballers, you struggle to continue performing at that level when you’re older.’
Steven became the fifth chef in the country to win the Master of Culinary Arts award in 1991. Only twenty chefs have been awarded the title to date.
Steven also teaches at the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School, passing on his years of experience to a new generation of chefs.
Early on in his career at Le Gavroche, Steven went to work at Mionnay, a three-starred restaurant outside Lyon with Alain Chapel for two years. It was here that Steven truly learnt what it meant to become a great chef.