I’m forever telling people that I have the best job in the world. It comes as a surprise to some folk, but it’s true. I adore food and I love cooking for people, and I can’t think of many other professions where you can use all your senses.
I feel blessed that I’m able to buy an abundance of seasonal produce from reliable sources here in Scotland. Getting this produce into my kitchen in the restaurant, treating it with the respect it deserves, and cooking it with genuine love and care is such a special experience.
I really want to engage with every ingredient I serve. It’s just something I need in my life. Visiting small-scale producers like Peelham Farm in the rolling hills of the borders helps me to understand the processes involved in making their Tamworth pork taste so succulent. It’s also important for me to understand why they took the step to produce their own charcuterie with great success.
Likewise a visit to see Hugh and Sasha at Grierson Organic in Perthshire is always a joy. The Strathearn valley is such a beautiful part of the world, and a great place for their chickens to roam free. I love when the little black dots in the distance turn out to be those huge pure-bred Aberdeen Angus cattle as you walk deeper into the fields.
To be able to see these animals in the fields, and to hear the farmers explain the care and attention they receive, means there’s a genuine thread of connection running through the whole process from field to plate.
Respect for the soil and for the surroundings comes as second nature to these guys. Just like our vegetable producers Phantassie Organic in East Lothian. Out in all weathers, tilling the soil of that beautiful countryside for us to take deliveries of their sweet carrots, salad leaves, beetroot, tatties and so much more.
I look to our cheese-makers in awe. It’s very easy to forget just how hard it is to make, churn and turn all those wonderful tasting truckles and kebbucks. I adore all our unpasteurised cheeses here in Scotland, and must mention Errington’s Lanark Blue in particular. It’s one of my favourites, made using milk from the same breed of sheep that Roquefort is made from. That salty tang and creamy interior is just so good. Another favourite is Anster from St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese. It’s a crumbly hard cheese made near in Fife and named after the old local name for the town of Anstruther. A great cheese for a picnic.
White fish from Scottish seas are being landed by our hard-working fishers at blustery, cold and wet harbours all year round – and it’s easy for us to take for them for granted. We take delivery at the restaurant from Fife fish merchants David Lowrie and George Campbell & Sons in Perth. Our oily fish is also something to behold. Herring and mackerel being firm favourites in both my home and work kitchens. But it may our smoked fish that we Scots are best-known for. Who can resist a slither of smoked salmon or trout. Or the brilliant Arbroath Smokie – now listed in Slow Food’s ‘Ark of Taste’ register.
All these food stuffs genuinely reflect our landscape, and are a slice of life here in Scotland. And as an always-learning Scottish chef, I have a duty to use these products. Not only to showcase them to our friends from overseas, but also to native Scots who have perhaps need a reminder of our unique and historical food culture.