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.

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