I have said over and again that the plates of food that leave my kitchen can only be as good as the ingredients that go on them. As a chef it is so important to know where my ingredients are coming from and by using Scottish produce it means that I can fully interact with all of those who supply me with the food which will be served up in my kitchen.
Over the years, I have built up a close relationship with many Scottish producers and this is something which I value immensely. They have become my food heroes. The restaurant could not function and receive such positive feedback without them. When I first sat down to write my debut cookbook, over a year ago, I knew straight off the bat that I needed to include some of the amazing suppliers that make my food possible. They are an integral part of the restaurant and therefore I knew that it was only right that their stories were told alongside my own. I could wax lyrical about all of my amazing suppliers but here I will highlight just a couple and why I choose to work with them.
Cyrenians Farm supplies the restaurant with an amazing array of vegetables each week. For nearly 50 years, Cyrenians has served those on the edge, working with the homeless and vulnerable to transform their lives by beginning with their story, helping them believe that they can change their lives, and walking with them as they lead their own transformation. So much of what Cyrenians does is based around food and cooking which is why they are my charity of the year for 2016. Cyrenians farm is a social enterprise located just outside Edinburgh. It is a working farm producing fruit, vegetables and eggs; it is also home to a community of vulnerable young people, many with experiences of homelessness. I work closely with Rob Davidson, the farm’s Enterprise Manager. I enjoy regular visits to the farm. Rob and I come up with growing plans for the coming months – they grow some ingredients specifically for me. The produce that arrives in each week is top quality and I really couldn’t get more local as the farm is located less than half an hour from the restaurant.
A couple of years ago, when searching for the best possible ducks available in Scotland, Gartmorn Farm was a name that came up over and again. Roger and Susan Lucey specialise in slow grown mature poultry and their ducks really are second to none. The farm is situated in an idyllic location on the north shore of the Gartmorn Country Park nestled just beneath the Ochil Hills – the ideal growing conditions for ducks. Roger and Susan take pride in the fact that they have complete control over the whole process from day old ducklings right up to the delivery of the final product. With a stockman and butcher on site, they ensure that all aspects of the production are carefully monitored. Every ingredient that I buy has to come from people equally as passionate as we are and I find the job that Roger and Susan do is outstanding leading to a fantastic end product that we are proud to use. They are big enough to have the equipment and knowledge to produce a quality welfare friendly product but small enough to care and take the time and attention. I have been lucky enough to work with them over the past couple of years and the duck dishes on my menu have grown in popularity as a result. A duck main course is always available at the restaurant although the accompaniments change with the seasons. Knowing that the star of the dish is always of superior quality means that I have the freedom to do whatever I like with it to help this amazing ingredient shine through.
Scotland is a treasure trove of amazing produce and something which we should all be immensely proud of. When people ask me why I choose Scottish produce where possible, there are so many answers; the produce is first of all of an outstanding quality, there is also the sense of support and community that goes alongside these choices, why not support producers from my home country? It means that I can have a direct relationship with my suppliers and producers as they are on my doorstep.
Mark Greenaway is the Chef Patron of Restaurant Mark Greenaway on North Castle Street, Edinburgh. Mark has recently launched his debut cookbook; Perceptions – Recipes from Restaurant Mark Greenaway.