Scotland's national Chef, Masterchef the Professional winner
- What was your favourite subject at school?
My favorite subject at school predictably was Home Economics, I was hopeless at school had very little motivation for other subjects, was probably the worst in every class and in Home Economics I found myself and with the help of an amazing teacher food became my life.
- What was your first job?
My first job was at Forrest Hills Hotel in the Trossachs, it was 1987 I was 15 years old, my brother John who worked there managed to get me a start, coming from a council estate in a tough part of Glasgow and then being transported to one of the most beautiful places on the planet was an incredible experience. I had a brilliant head chef who was really ahead of his time when it came to using local produce.
- Which is your favourite restaurant /hotel?
Glasgow has got some incredible restaurants, the one I keep going back to is the Ox and Finch, the food is always amazing but what I love best is that I tend to go there with a couple of good friends who are chefs so we order most of the menu and share the dishes, this means that you don’t miss a thing. My favorite hotel is Gleneagles, my wife and I try and get there once or twice a year. It is a special place, you are always made to feel so welcome and the food no matter where you go is always amazing, it’s a venue everyone in Scotland should be proud of.
- How do you inspire your team
I have a couple of hats that I wear in my life one is in education and one is operating restaurants, both industries are going through a very difficult time. The last few years have had a disproportionate negative effect on both industries. Staffing above all has been the biggest challenge. My approach is to try and make sure that the staff have a flexible work life balance, we also try and create a working environment that is fun and varied. Lots of my team are part time students so its vital that we see them as students first and employees second. I know more than most that there are certain time of the year that a student has to purely focus on studies.
- Which person in hospitality have you most admired / inspired you?
As an educator the people that inspire me are the students I have taught and have gone on to create incredible careers and have proven that spending time in college has been life changing for them. Cullum Montgomery owner of the 4 AA rosette Edinbane Lodge on the Isle of Skye, Chris Loye, who is at the heart of food and food culture in the Outer Hebrides. Erin Walker Home Economics Teacher at Ardrossan High School and Jordyn Leitch, St Andrews and St Brides Secondary School who are both doing the vital role of teaching the next generation of young people how to cook. To name but a few.
- How do you manage your stress levels?
A very tough question, I have always though that I handled it well, I have always had high pressure jobs and have always pushed myself to be better. I think its my kid who have a real calming effect on me, however tough things get outside when I am home I can leave it at the door and concentrate on the most important job is being there for my kids.
- Instagram, Twitter or Facebook – and why?
Social media is a necessary evil in my life, I started on Twitter and I find it the easiest. Short posts easy to navigate and I have lads of followers on that platform. Facebook keeps changing and I find it difficult to keep up. I am finding I am using LinkedIn more and more especially with my day job activities, its very professional and it helps me keep up with what is going on in the industry.
- If you had not gone into hospitality, where do you
think you would be now?
Not sure to be honest I have been doing this for 36 years, I have never done anything else, in saying that at 16 I tried to joining the army catering core, the recruitment sergeant at the Queen Street recruiting office, asked me to come back the following year when I was a bit bigger as the back pack was bigger than me!!! I never got any bigger so I stayed in hospitality.
- What did you do on your last days off?
This is going to sound terrible, my last day off was Sunday and I had been working in New York, I rented a bike and spent the day cycling around Manhattan, I went round Central Park, and then all the way down to the 911 memorial and a wee trip into Brooklyn.
- What do you do to relax, to support your wellbeing?
I like to walk, I also like to cook with the kids, I also spend a lot of time writing that give me a chance to zone out.