20 questions for Steve Watson

Rosie Mullaley rmullaley@thetelegram.com
Published on March 27, 2016
Rosie Mullaley/The Telegram
Steve Watson’s penny-farthing bicycle is his most treasured possession.

You might recognize him as the amiable co-host and chef on the popular Rogers TV show “One Chef, One Critic.”

But whipping up tasty dishes is not Steve Watson’s only talent.

The 60-year-old is involved in a wide array of other activities.

Besides being a devoted husband and father, Watson is Mount Pearl’s town crier, an ice sculptor, a bicyclist, kite enthusiast, not to mention a salesman and volunteer.

“Life is good,” said Watson, who first got involved in so many activities in 1999. Before that, his life had been mostly focused on his work as a chef.

After completing his chef apprenticeship in London, England, Watson — who is from Scunthorpe North Lincolnshire, England — worked in Scotland, Belgium and France.

He came to Canada in the late 1970s to study North American cooking and had only planned to stay for six months.

“All I knew at the time was silver service,” he said. “I’d only worked with waiters with white gloves. I’d never put a meal on a plate — it was all on silver platters — French service, you see,” he said.

However, near the end of his six-month working visa, while working in Nova Scotia’s Digby Pines Hotel, he opted to stay and for the next 10 years worked in various hotels chains across the country.

When an opportunity to work in Newfoundland came up, Watson was intrigued.

“The posting was on the wall and for three months, nobody applied for it. Nobody wanted to come to Newfoundland,” he said.

“In our own minds — and that was the way Newfoundland was promoted at the time — it was all rubber boots, sou’westers…”

He decided to visit the province for a weekend with his wife, Pat, who is from Ontario.

“We came here and we’ve never looked back,” Watson said. “I think Newfoundland is a very special place. When we stepped off the plane, I felt at home and I still do to this day after 28 years.”

Watson worked as executive chef at Hotel Newfoundland for 12 years and got to travel to food fairs around the world.

“My motto at the time was ‘Have cod tongues, will travel,’” he said with a chuckle.

In 1999, with two small children, Watson decided he needed a change and began work at Central Dairies as a food service salesman.

Watson still works for the company — now Agropur — as territorial sales manager, Southern Avalon.

He’s been Mount Pearl’s town crier for almost 10 years and carves ice sculptures for private and community events, and owns more than 60 kites, which he designs and his wife makes.

He and his wife also ride a tandem bike — covering about 8,000 kilometres a year — and they have a penny-farthing bicycle, which draws plenty of attention.

Watson also thoroughly enjoys co-hosting “One Chef, One Critic” with Telegram restaurant reviewer Karl Wells, whom he met when Wells was CBC’s weatherman.

“We just hit it off,” Watson said.

Now entering its 10th season, their show features people in the community — writers, musicians, playwrights and actors — as guests as they prepare various entrées.

“Everybody loves food,” Watson said, “but it’s not just a cooking show.”

Together, Watson and Wells have done close to 150 shows.

 “We’ve always got on very well, but please note (in the show’s title), the ‘Chef’ comes before the ‘Critic,’” Watson said with a chuckle.

 

What is your full name?

Steven Alec Watson.

 

Where and when were you born?

Scunthorpe Lincolnshire, England, 1956

 

Where is home for you today?

Mount Pearl

 

What are you reading at the moment?

James Herriot “All Creatures Great and Small.”

It delves into the magical, unforgettable world of James Herriot, the world’s most beloved veterinarian, and his menagerie of heart-warming, funny and tragic animal patients. Someday, I would like to reciprocate his stories with my exploits as a chef over the years.

 

What is your favourite movie?

The infamous 1980 cult movie “Caddyshack,” with Bill Murray, Roger Dangerfield and Chevy Chase

 

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Bill Murray, comedian and writer, who would bring out the best of me in my travels and exploits over the years.

 

Growing up, what kind of music did you listen to?

Whilst serving my chef apprenticeship in London, England, in the early ’70s, it has to be the London group Pink Floyd, famous for the “Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall.”

 

What is your personal motto?

Clean as you go.

 

What do you like to do to relax?

Ride one of our tandem bikes with my wife Pat.

 

What is your most treasured possession?

My penny-farthing bike.

 

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Whilst we still have our health, I would like to cycle across Canada from west to east and let the westerly winds blow us a little bit, and participate in the world’s largest cycle ride, the Cape Argus, in Cape Town, South Africa, in which 35,000 people participate.

 

What was one act of rebellion you committed as a youth?

I think I’m still a child at heart, so early in my career as executive chef at the Hotel Newfoundland, I placed an ad in the classifieds of The Telegram for Christmas trees for sale, $5 apiece, delivered to your house for free, giving one of my sous chef’s home phone numbers. His wife still reminds of it to this day, as the phone never stopped ringing for three days.

 

Who is one person, living or deceased, you’d love to have lunch with?

A quiet luncheon in a country pub in Yorkshire with Sir Michael Caine — both of us share the same birthday, March 14 — and discuss his highlights and many achievements of his 50-year career.

 

If you were premier of the province, what is one thing that you’d try to do?

The roads — no more pot holes. I think everything else is a work in progress.

 

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?

Whilst being an executive chef, it’s hard to single out any one in particular meal, as I know so much work goes into preparing them, but without a doubt some of my most memorable meals are my mother’s Sunday lunches after being at the pub with friends and coming home to a nice roast with copious amounts of vegetables and lots of Yorkshire puddings.

 

What’s your favourite article of clothing?

My top hat, which I have owned for 45 years and has travelled the world with me. If it could tell stories!

 

What household chore do you hate most?

Laundry, which my wife does, but the driveway is always cleaned and my wife’s car is clear of snow in the winter and the lawn cut in the summer.

 

What’s the best part of your job?

Meeting with customers, both internally and externally, and co-hosting “One Chef, One Critic” with Karl Wells.

 

What is your favourite place in Newfoundland and Labrador?

From L’Anse aux Meadows to Fogo Island and Trepassey, whether it be ice carving, culinary demos, town crier, I have had the opportunity to travel all over the province and to promote Newfoundland and Labrador nationally and internationally in all four seasons, and some of them all in one day. I believe Newfoundland and Labrador is a very special place. To single out one place would do injustice to all we have to offer. Though if there is one place on my bucket list, it is to visit the Torngat Mountains in Labrador.

 

What do you see as the biggest challenge for the province in the next five to 10 years?

An aging population, and for our youth to have the education and trained for all jobs, whether it be academic or trades.