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

Scottish Field - - CONTENTS - Barry Bryson

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’

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