Andrew Fair­lie’s Gle­nea­gles kitchen is as calm as a yoga class, writes Stephen Jardine

The Scotsman - - Scottish Perspective -

Fif­teen years ago Imadeatv se­ries about tal­ented Scots. It fea­tured the usual line-up of pop stars, mod­els and en­trepreneurs but one per­son stood out from the rest. He was the least fa­mous of the lot but I liked him the most. His name was Andrew Fair­lie.

He’d just opened his own restau­rant in­side Gle­nea­gles Ho­tel and he was the hottest ticket in town, well on the way to his two Miche­lin stars.

We first met in a lay-by out­side Glas­gow. The for­mat for the show in­volved find­ing out what made the per­son tick and for Andrew that was a day in his beloved hills. De­spite be­ing Scot­land’s top chef, we bonded over a flask of stewed tea and a packet of short­bread. I’ve been his friend ever since.

If the hills were his es­cape, his home was the kitchen at Gle­nea­gles and that be­came clear the mo­ment you walked through the door.

I’ve filmed with lots of chefs down the years. Some act up to the cam­eras at the ex­pense of their staff. Oth­ers try to fake a ca­ma­raderie that clearly doesn’t ex­ist.

Andrew’s kitchen was dif­fer­ent.

It felt as calm as a yoga class for peo­ple who’d just had a re­lax­ing mas­sage. In a small, sep­a­rate space in the cen­tre of the vast Gle­nea­gles kitchen, his team of chefs went qui­etly about the busi­ness of pro­duc­ing the very best food in Scot­land. In the mid­dle of it all was Andrew, quiet and unas­sum­ing but clearly in charge.

He used his en­cy­clopaedic knowl­edge of food and his pas­sion for great Scot­tish in­gre­di­ents to in­spire his kitchen team and lead them to per­fec­tion. That pro­duced a spe­cial kind of loy­alty and ad­mi­ra­tion from those who worked with him.

And then there was his food. His smoked lob­ster is prob­a­bly his sig­na­ture dish. It orig­i­nates from his clas­si­cal train­ing un­der chef Michel Guer­ard in France and it is also one of the most in­cred­i­ble things you will ever eat.

Some dishes sound good on the menu and look good on the plate but ul­ti­mately dis­ap­point. Andrew’s food promised lots and de­liv­ered even more. Cook­ing that pre­cise and remarkable was al­ways go­ing to at­tract at­ten­tion and Andrew has had lots of that.

For the past 12 years, his has been the only restau­rant in Scot­land with two Miche­lin stars. It’s also been voted Best Restau­rant in the UK and won every prize and award go­ing. And all this in a cor­ner of ru­ral Perthshire.

That is his achieve­ment. Andrew Fair­lie has put Scot­tish food on the map and his com­mit­ment and high stan­dards have in­spired oth­ers and cre­ated the vi­brant restau­rant scene we all now en­joy. You will strug­gle to find a chef in Scot­land who doesn’t list him as an in­spi­ra­tion.

That ex­plains the re­ac­tion this week to the news that Andrew is stepping down from his restau­rant due to a ter­mi­nal brain tu­mour. Even for those of us who knew about his con­di­tion, the re­al­ity of the news cov­er­age has been an ab­so­lute shock.

His pro­fes­sional ca­reer may be over but his ex­cel­lence will con­tinue un­der his team. Away from the kitchen, there is still life to be lived by this remarkable man, sur­rounded by the love of friends and fam­ily and an in­dus­try for whom he will al­ways be, Scot­land’s great­est chef.

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