Good produce: bad cooking. It’s fair criticism. Scotland’s catering industry is far from perfect. The best produce ruined by inexpert cooks. But take a look at the other side of the story.
The past decade has seen a boom in coveted Michelin stars for Scotland’s caterers – two new ones this year at Inverlochy Castle and the Summer Isles Hotel. Take a look also at the approach to sourcing and cooking good Scottish produce which has been broadcast in Nick Nairn’s TV series, Wild Harvest and now Island Harvest. He may make it look easier than it is, but the message about the availability of the best produce in Europe is clear. The lesson for cooks, however, is that you can’t learn perfection from watching a TV series.
Now Nairn, as honorary president, is heading a national cookery centre which offers hands-on cookery courses and cookery demonstrations for professional and amateur cooks. The Drambuie Scottish Chefs Centre will open its doors at 62 St Andrews Drive in Glasgow (formerly Deauvilles Hotel) on March 2. “This is the most significant development in Scottish cooking in the past decade,” says Nairn. Run by a group of directors, who are leaders in the catering industry, the Scottish Chefs’ Association was founded four years ago and is chaired by David Wilson of the Peat Inn. The six-bedroomed “62 St Andrews” will operate as a hotel. Culinary Director is John Webber. Webber comes from Kinnaird House in Perthshire where he established a reputation for good produce and flawless cooking. Among his formative cooking experiences was time spent in the kitchens of the Dorchester with Anton Mosimann, when the young Swiss chef set about revolutionising grand hotel cooking. Throwing out haute cuisine’s 10-page menu of 100-odd dishes, he pioneered the shorter, everything-fresh menu. Webber’s knowledge and experience combine with a talent for teaching, which he has demonstrated at several hands-on training sessions held at Kinnaird during the four years the SCA have run their teaching courses in members’ hotels. If the directors of the centre can concentrate the enthusiasm and interest, then it could prove a vital ingredient to better food on the plate. If they can succeed in attracting amateur food and cooking enthusiasts to join the Scottish Chefs’ Club, which already has a membership of 100. Highlight of the SCA’s year is the annual awards dinner which will be held in the Marriott Hotel on Sunday, April 19, (tickets #50). The six courses will be cooked by Paul Rushforth, Puppet Theatre, Glasgow; James Murphy, Beardmore Hotel, Clydebank; Glyn Stevens, The Atrium, Edinburgh; Jeremy Wares, Kinfauns Castle, Perthshire; Iain McMaster and Steven Caputa, Yes, Glasgow and Keith and Nicola Braidwood, Braidwoods, Dalry. Entry forms for the awards – you can nominate a chef or a restaurant – and details of courses from Brian Hannan, Chief Executive, Drambuie Scottish Chefs Centre, 62 St Andrews Drive, Glasgow G41 5EZ. Tel: 0141 427 1106. Closing date for Awards entries is March 13. CB