Tell us a bit about how you got into food?
My mum and dad were great home cooks when my brother and I were growing up. I was involved in baking with my mum from a young age and when I got a little older, I was able to help my father on the BBQ and with Sunday roasts. I guess that is where it all started for me. It felt very natural from a young age. I loved it and that’s the most important part.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Throughout my 14-year career I have been lucky to receive some amazing advice.
Robert Macpherson at Isle of Eriska is very memorable, always repeating to me: “You are a chef! Everything you do must be done to the best of your ability from staff tea, to a 3 rosette dinner dish, to a breakfast dish. You must value every ingredient, do not waste anything!”
Scott Pickett in Melbourne, Australia was influential for the understanding of building flavour in dishes. He made me focus on how the produce had to give real fresh food appeal, through natural aromas, flavours and textures. A constant balance; a “roundness” of salt, sweetness and acidity, which made the whole body of the finished dish have real depth of flavour. That’s what made his saucing the best I have ever tasted.
Adam Stokes taught me the importance of seasoning. Every head chef should take pride and care to check and taste every component coming out of his kitchen.
Shirley Spear has shown me the importance of supporting local farmers, growers and fishermen. The importance of local livestock breeds and the care that goes into producing these amazing products. How much better they taste when so much love and care has been devoted to rearing and feeding them naturally.
Why is Scottish produce so important to you?
It’s extremely important, when living in a rural community, that you support your neighbours! In my opinion most of the produce we use in Skye is the best in the world.
I work with Soay lamb and iron-age wild boar, cross-bred pigs from Orbost Farm, just 10 minutes down the road. Highland venison comes via the Kyle butcher at the moment. Doubled-dived king scallops arrive from David and Ben Oakes, a father and son team at Sconser. Oysters are straight out of Loch Harport near Talisker Distillery. Willie Murdo and his crew fish for brown crab, prawns and lobster in Loch Dunvegan, right outside our door. Andy Race specialises in white fish landed at the Port of Mallaig. That’s to name just a few!
We can’t thank our suppliers enough for their hard work – even when the weather is wild! And I must not forget those who are growing Scottish berries, making dairy products and handmade cheeses from other brilliant producers in wider areas of Scotland.
Have you discovered any interesting and innovative products lately?
I think finding Keith and Rachel from Orbost Farm for their wild venison, lamb, mutton and pork was a real delight. It is really eye-opening to see that for them, farming isn’t just a way of making money; it’s a complete way of life, which requires a unique skillset that not many people have today.
Skye is a chef’s playground and a dream! I am introducing a few Nordic techniques, which fit-in really well with The Three Chimneys location and ethos: from pine ash to silver birch water. The wild flowers, seaweed, herbs, plants and mushrooms on Skye are just amazing. They really add to dishes and the stories of those dishes for our guests. And the fact that’s they are picked just a few hours before being served, really adds to the quality of the dishes we are cooking here.
If you were abandoned on a desert island and could only take one Scottish product, what would it be and why?
I would say my beautiful fiancé Charlotte, but she is not a Scottish product! I think the easy answer to this is whisky. It is amazing how your palate develops and changes over time. At one point I didn’t enjoy drinking whisky at all, but last year we went to a proper whisky tasting at Talisker Distillery and I really enjoyed it. I tasted a 35-year-old malt, which was incredible. The complexity was just out of this world- slightly salty, peaty, smoky and very smooth. I could do a Johnny Depp from the Pirates of the Caribbean, but instead of rum it would be whisky! But all joking aside, I think a tall glass of good old Scottish hill water would have to be it, especially on a desert island – and especially after all that whisky!
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