MEALS ON WHEELS
Kirsten Gilmour, chef and owner of The Mountain Cafe in Aviemore, is as happy in the Highland hills as she is cooking up a storm in the kitchen
Kirsten Gilmour cooks up a storm at The Mountain Cafe in Aviemore
When Kiwi chef Kirsten Gilmour travelled from London for a weekend of skiing in Aviemore she had no idea that the Highland town would capture her imagination and her heart. Arriving in the midst of a busy ski season, Gilmour tried to hire skis from an outdoor shop and ended up working there. ‘I met my husband during that time,’ she says. ‘I didn’t just stay for the skiing. He’s a mountaineering instructor and we’ve had all sorts of crazy adventures all over Scotland. I love getting outdoors, it keeps me sane.’
Gilmour spent time cooking in New Zealand, where she won a competition for trainee chefs which allowed her to travel to London. But opening the Mountain Cafe was a big step. ‘I’d never been a boss or a head chef,’ Gilmour tells me. ‘I’ve spent the past 12 years learning how to do it.’ And now that she can, Kirsten really enjoys teaching young chefs the trade. ‘I don’t just take on qualified chefs any more, one of the most rewarding things about owning the cafe is taking on kitchen assistants and teaching them to cook.’
The cafe’s ethos is simple and Gilmour has been religious about buying the best produce available, from as many Scottish suppliers as she can and never buying in pre-prepared food. All of the cafe’s cakes and bread are homemade. ‘I would describe my food as wholesome, healthy and sexy,’ she says. ‘I like mixing great Scottish ingredients with fresh herbs and exotic fruits. I call it Skiwi.’
‘The chicken pie recipe printed here is taken from my book, The Mountain Cafe Cookbook and really does come from my Mum, I hated it as a kid. We had it so often because we lived on my grandparents’ farm. A few years ago I challenged myself to pimp it up and make it taste good. My Mum is disgusted with it, she thinks it’s pretentious. But at least I can eat chicken pie again.’
Image: Kirsten Gimour pedals away the stresses and strains of life in the kitchen at The Mountain Cafe.