Scott Davies, Head Chef, The Three Chimneys
Why is using local produce from suppliers like Orbost so important to you?
Well, I think it’s what makes the business so special. The restaurant has been there for 31 years now, supporting the local community. Orbost gives us access to some fabulous meat, from some fantastic natural breeds: like the Soay lambs and iron-age pigs. Then there is the local hill venison, which Keith Jackson shoots for us as well. It’s all slow growing, nothing is force fed, it’s all natural grazing and the animals are happy. The lambs are about a year and a half old and the pork is a year old too. They are just allowed to mature naturally and the flavours of the meat are just incredible.
How important is your relationship with Rachael and Keith? How often are you in contact with them?
Regarding produce, probably every couple of days, and we try and stay ahead regarding the shooting, which is quite important for us too. Orbost take the animals up to Dingwall for slaughter on the Monday, then collect the meat on the Tuesday and then they bring it back for us on the Thursday, and we collect it on the Friday morning. The lamb only needs to be hung for a few days, the mutton we usually hang for about a week in the chill room at Orbost Farm.
Our menus change a lot, so the quantities we need also fluctuate quite a bit between each week. Orbost only kill exactly what we need, to keep everything fresh and at just the right maturity, so we have to be in very regular contact.
Do you have a particular dish that would showcase the relationship between you and Orbost Farm?
At the moment all of our tasting menus use quite a lot of what Orbost supplies, and we do have a lovely lamb and mutton dish. To make it we braise the neck and shoulders of the mutton down, then cook that nice and slowly for about eight hours. Then we flake all that down, roll it in potato, then crisp it up. The lamb loins are pan fried – cooked nice and pink – then glazed in miso and heather honey before being served with some courgette puree and a beautiful lamb sauce.
Rachael Jackson and her husband Keith Jackson run Orbost Farm on the Isle of Skye, where they farm highland cattle, native breed sheep, such as Soays and Hebrideans, iron age pigs and shoot wild venison.
How closely do you work with the Three Chimneys?
We are in touch at least two or three times a week to check what they are going to need that week and what they are going to need for the week after too. We are essentially farmers, that’s the core of what we do, but we also take our meat from the farm that step further and do some of the meat processing. So, we do work incredibly closely with them to make sure they have everything they are going to need, exactly when they need it.
Do you age your meat on site?
The way it works with us just now, there is no abattoir on Skye – in fact there is no abattoir anywhere nearby – so although the animals are born and raised and processed on the farm they have to go to Dingwall for slaughter. We have been pushing really hard for a local abattoir to be built, a community one on the island, but at the moment, Keith will take our animals through to Dingwall on a Monday and then he will drive back to Kyle with the refrigerator van full of the whole carcasses. We have a deer larder that’s licensed for processing meat – we do wild venison as well – we then break the carcasses down and cut and package them and label them in the deer larder. Scott in particular, takes whole carcasses, so he’ll meet up with us on the Thursday and he will select the lamb or mutton carcasses that he needs, which works really well for us because it means that we are able to cut and process the meat the way that he wants it done. Other things like the venison or the pork that they need, we can do that for them as well.
For you, what is it that makes Skye so special?
I think it is very important, particularly for the tourist market, to feed people the food that is produced in the region in which they are staying. It’s not only important for the environment, it’s also important for the quality and for the traceability. We call it food with an identity: it’s essential to have food that’s traceable. You know the quality is there because someone is accountable for it. You can’t get away with cutting corners – not that we would – you can’t get away with anything like that because you are the face of your produce, people know where it comes from and they know how it’s being produced and it really does do justice to what we produce.
How rewarding is it to see your hard work recognised?
The great thing for us is when we work with local chefs, people like Scott who are so passionate about working with the seasons and working with us as producers, the amazing thing is that you know how much love and care you’ve put in to take it to the raw stage, the product stage. And then with the Three Chimneys you know how much care and attention they are going to put into that raw ingredient to make it the best that it can possibly be. This justifies the whole process, because you know when it reaches the guest it is the best quality it can be. That is extremely satisfying for everyone involved in the process, from producer to chef to guest, it means that everyone knows they’ve done their very best to do that animal justice. That’s what it is all about. We wouldn’t do it otherwise.
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