CREAM OF THE CROP
If you’re lucky enough to need a private chef for a family get-together, fishing, stalking or shooting break, then meet four of Scotland’s top culinary guns for hire
Four of Scotland's top private chefs on creating culinary masterpieces in some of the most luxurious and unusual locations
Ibegan my career as a chef working for others as so many do. About 15 years ago I set up a catering organisation for arts venues. I ran that for ten years before it morphed into what I do today, working fully as an events chef. Cooking for people in venues, rather than in a restaurant, requires extreme organisation and it’s something you learn very quickly. All great food is produced from a solid template of strong work ethic anyway, so you’re really just transferring that and travelling with it. Logistics need to be really carefully considered when planning menus to make sure that your food and your services tie in brilliantly with what the client is looking for.
Often a client will come to me looking to plan an event for a large group but don’t have the space in their home to do it. I start coming up with logistics as to how we can entertain a large group in their home. That may involve helping them set a marquee up, or perhaps helping them design a dinner around what space they do have. For example, if a client has a series of big rooms, but none of them seat the full number of guests, we can set it up so that the diners eat in groups that move room after every course. In the past we have set up a table in the kitchen directly where myself and my co-chefs cook, so a group at a time watch us do a course, then swap with another group who will watch the next.
We’ve also done an event in a private home that had a huge glass atrium. We created a chefs’ station in the middle of the room where myself and three chefs cooked for 75 guests directly in front of them. It can be nerve-wracking, but I think most chefs feel a fire in their belly when cooking for guests; it’s a sort of positive energy that keeps you totally focused.
Sometimes there are hiccups when it comes to logistics, one involved getting a large amount of handmade canapés to a remote Scottish island on a day when the ferry was cancelled. That was difficult but we got there; we plan for these types of things.
What we do is very bespoke. The sort of focus we put on ten people is the same as when we’re catering for 300 people. We try to create experiences rather than just dinners. We design concepts for clients that really mix things up and take them on a bit of a journey.
We recently did a dinner for 100 people, beginning with a seven item hand-made canapé menu along with champagne and cocktails. We then placed an enormous platter of Scottish seafood on each table, which was supplemented with other things as the evening went on; heritage vegetables, salads and hot slices of medium rare sirloin. Everyone was just fed constantly for three hours in a lovely relaxed European way.
We try to cook with ingredients that are in season, which sounds a bit clichéd but it’s what works. Being in Scotland, I reach for a lot of beef and venison. I love two different types of cuts on one plate, perhaps a lean rare cut and a sticky braised cut. If we’re talking seafood and shellfish, I’m an absolute sucker for lobsters.
I’ve done an awful lot in my career but the one thing I’m yet to do is cook on a yacht. I usually cook for between two and 200 people at events. I think preparing an elaborate meal aboard a yacht for six people or so would be a wonderful experience.
‘Most chefs feel a fire in their belly when cooking for guests’