The Scottish Chefs Conference

Peter Evans

Peter Evans

Executive Chef 24th November 2010
The Staff Canteen is really delighted to have been invited to work with the excellent Scottish Chefs Conference. The conference, now in its 5th year, was held at Glasgow's Thistle Hotel and attended by over  four-hundred chefs and almost two hundred students. The conference was the brain child of Scottish Chef Willie Pike MBE. Willie held the first conference, whilst Executive Chef at Lochgreen House Hotel... The conference has grown every year since and attracts the very best chefs. Willie is a hugely respected figure both north and south of the border, and his hard work, energy, drive and effort should be applauded in the organisation of this event. It's an event that sadly attracts little main stream media coverage, yet in terms of size and attendance has to be one of the best that I have personally attended. For 2010 Willie had five outstanding Chefs lined up, with Stevie McGlaughin Head Chef Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, Raymond Capaldi, Benoit Blin Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons, Craig Dunn from Abode Hotel and Michael Caines Restaurants, Alan Murchison, Managing Director Alan Murchison restaurants. The morning kicked off with sausage sandwiches and teas and coffees, as chefs students and exhibitors mingled, as the throng of delegates arrived, and filtered through the rooms lines of people networked at the tea and coffee stations. As the main ballroom, began to fill, the stage was set, the audio and visual team were in place, ensuring that even the late arrivals are able to see and hear from the very back of the ballroom. First up wais Stevie McGlaughin and, as you would expect from Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, precise professional and seasonal. Stevie demonstrated a range of dishes from Scotland's only two Michelin star restaurant. Stevie was supported on stage by Loran McNee from the restaurant  Andrew Fairlie. Stevie is described on the Scottish Chefs Conference site as: After leaving school Stevie undertook a two year course at Glasgow College of Food Technology and upon completion of his studies started at "One Devonshire Gardens" as second commis in 1994. Rising through all areas of the kitchen, he was a key member of the team that was awarded a Michelin star in 1996. Throughout his time at "One Devonshire Gardens" Stevie built an exceptional rapport and understanding with Andrew Fairlie, his Head Chef and mentor. In 2001, Stevie joined Andrew in heading for the brand new venture "Andrew Fairlie @ Gleneagles". Starting as Sous Chef, Stevie has made the transition to Head Chef where he currently enjoys being part of, and leading an exceptionally loyal brigade. It is testimony to the combined skills and dedication of the team that within a year of opening they could proudly boast their 1st Michelin star. Whilst in his tenure as Head Chef "Andrew Fairlie @ Gleneagles" has increased it's AA Guide rating to Four Rosettes and been promoted to 2 Michelin stars. Throughout his career, Stevie has undertaken stages in some of the world's greatest kitchens, including "The Waterside Inn", "The French Laundry", "Le Gavroche", "The Capitol", "Nico at 90 Park Lane" and most recently "Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester". This insatiable desire to learn and improve, instilled in Stevie by Andrew, forms the basis of his leadership style. A shared hunger to achieve continued success is the driving force for the team and the mutual goal of excellence is clear for all to see. Stevie's dishes included:
  • Fine Tart of Cured Mackerel Radish and Balsamic, Cinnamon Roasted Veal Sweetbreads
  • Lettuce and Nut Brown Butter,  Roast and Confit Grey-Legged Partridge
  • Liver Parfait, Macaroni and Truffle Gratin, Chocolate Custard
Next up to the stage was Raymond Capaldi. Fresh from Melbourne Australia. Ray, who is a native to Scotland, has a CV that boasts The Caledonian, Edinburgh Zoo and Gleneagles Hotel, before flying far from his Edinburgh home to Melbourne, via time in Hong Kong. Ray, ever the showman, entertained and interacted with audience, arriving to the stage to tracks from his Ipod of The Specials and Huge and Cry, almost like a WWF wrestlers as they take to the ring, only in Ray's case without the muscles and sun tan!!! Ray encouraged the Chefs to challenge what they are taught, and to ask why, and not to just accept that "That is how it's always done" to use recipes yes, but use your imagination, also to understand that we can all copy and we do, but understand why and what your cooking and how even regions will affect the recipe. On The Scottish Chefs website they describe Ray as: Raymond is regarded for being the leader in the new cuisine "˜'TRADERNE'' which blends the traditional and modern techniques of the science of Food and the whole dining experience for the future. Prior to Fenix Raymond's experience is extensive and includes highlights such as Executive Chef of Hotel Sofitel, Melbourne, Chef de Cuisine at the Park Lane Hotel, Hong Kong and Executive Chef of the British Embassy, Moscow just to name a few. Raymond consults to some of Melbourne's top Restaurants and hospitality businesses. And also presented in Asia at many 6 star establishments . Some of Raymond's major achievements not only include the before mentioned but also three (3) Chef's Hats in The Age Food Guide, establishment of the Sofitel Cooking Academy and Scottish Chef of the Year in 1992.and Young UK chef of the year 1985 and represented the UK in the culinary Olympics in Osaka. Raymond will be opening a new restaurant soon. Ray's dishes included:
  • Candied cod, cheeks, beef tendon, roasted jus Condensed grapes, Indian cress
  • Parsnip, rose crumble, crumble ice sorrel, white chocolate sorbet
Ray was, as ever, a complete livewire, he engages the audience with both a lively and raw debate, in traditional "Chef language". At one point, Ray decided to throw surplus roses to the crowd, doing his best to single out the female section of the large crowd. Ray uses what is probably the largest clock ever in order to keep him on time, as he runs through his two dishes, combining old style traditional recipes adapted to the current day. There's a break for lunch, and an excellent opportunity too for delegates to catch up and discuss the morning's activity, over a hot and cold buffet lunch. Next to the stage was one of the world's finest and most respected Pastry Chef Mr Benoit Blin, from Raymond Blanc Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons in Oxfordshire. As you would expect from such a pedigree, Benoit is a font of knowledge, he is highly organised, engaging and manages to convey his message in a manner that is entertaining and yet packed full of important information, for the delegates. I think that it's fair to say, that Benoit has probably forgotten more about Pastry then I ever learnt, his detail on the origins of chocolate, the coco and coco butter and sugar contents of chocolate really is enthroning. Such is Benoit's skills that he delivers and shares his knowledge with passion and great understanding for his audience. Just as his presentation, his desserts are flawless, precious, decadent and detailed. Described on The conference website as: One of Europe's leading Pastry Chefs, Benoit Blin. Benoit, Executive Pastry Chef at Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons in Oxfordshire. Awarded the MOGB in 2005 and having worked in Frances leading operations including the Ritz Paris with a host of MOF recognised Chefs. Benoit Blin joined Le Manoir team in January 1995 as Chef Patissier. He has bought with him a vast experience gained in top kitchens around Europe including the Hotel Ritz in Paris. Among his many and most recent conquests he was was awarded the achievement of Master of Culinary Arts 2005. Benoit Blin (MCA) Chef Patissier Beniot dishes include: Chocolate textures Exotic fruit raviole with Kaffir lime leaf and coconut Sorbet, Pear Almondine Next to the stage and native to Glasgow is Craig Dunn, Craig described on the conference website as: Executive Head Chef Craig Dunn joined the Michael Caines team in early 2008 and in his first year was awarded the Chef Medaille d'Or for Dinner Excellence 2009 by The Scottish Hotel Awards. A born and bred Glaswegian, he brings a wealth of experience, local produce and product knowledge, great contacts for the best regional ingredients, and an innate understanding of the unique Glasgow market requirements. "Here in Glasgow," says Craig, "we don't like things to be overly complicated. My goal is to produce tasty, fresh foods using the best local and regional ingredients based on Michael Caines' values and style of cooking. It is a great opportunity for me to work with and learn from such a highly acclaimed and talented chef such as Michael." Craig Dunn, Restaurant Chef of the Year 2009 - Scottish Chef Awards As in every Michael Caines Restaurant, the emphasis is on utilising the best local and regional ingredients, which in Glasgow means the finest fish and shellfish from the West Coast, seasonal foods such as wild sea trout and salmon, outstanding fruit and vegetables, and Scotch meat and lamb, which really stands up alongside the very best from anywhere in the world. In addition to overseeing the Michael Caines Restaurant, Craig is also charged with developing dishes for the more informal BarMC and Grill. "We're looking to develop a grill menu that really does showcase the best meats and fish from local suppliers. With ingredients this fresh and this good, the simpler preparations are usually the best." Craig was on the stage on his own, as the recently crowned best restaurant winner in the Sunday Times Michael Caines MBE, from Abode Hotels and Michael Caines restaurant, was sadly grounded at Exeter airport due to fog that morning. Craig, who of course speaks the local lingo, and is fluent in Glaswegian, talks the audience through two dishes - a Glazed wild Mallard, shallot puree, herb gnocchi, confit gizzards, spiced Jus dishes that can be found on the Abode Hotel menus, plus on Michael signature dishes the Langoustine Cannelloni , which is on the signature menu at Gidleigh Park. Craig's Dishes included Langoustine Cannelloni. Glazed wild Mallard, shallot puree, herb gnocchi, confit gizzards, spiced jus. Last, but by no means least, to the stage and yes the graveyard shift was Alan Murchison from Alan Murchison Restaurants Ltd, who is described on the conference website site as: Having left school with no qualifications, Inverness-born Alan Murchison is now managing director of Alan Murchison Restaurants Ltd and is the only British chef outside the capital with two Michelin-starred restaurants. Alan has worked with several Michelin-starred chefs since he started his restaurant career as a potwasher. He worked under Graham Newbould and Simon Haigh at Inverlochy Castle, then as John Burton Race's sous chef at l'Ortolan, near Reading, which he bought from Burton Race in 2001. He also worked with Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, in Oxfordshire, for more than four years as a senior sous chef and teacher. As chef patron at L'Ortolan, Alan runs eight out of ten services there himself, but he also works one day a week at his other restaurant, La Bécasse, in Shropshire, which he bought in 2007. Both establishments serve modern versions of classic European cuisine. In December 2007 he also published his first cookery book, Food for Thought. Alan is passionate about British produce, which makes up 95 per cent of the food used in his restaurants. He also leads by example, growing his own mushrooms and picking his own berries for his kitchens. Alan appeared in the 2009 series of Great British Menu, representing Scotland and was a demonstrator at the Scottish Chefs Conference in that year also. I almost passed out in corridor in the morning seeing him return from his run, in lycra shorts and running hat! Alan started his presentation by drawing products from a Marks and Spencer bag that he brought from just across the road in the M+S store. Alan reads the descriptions on the boxes and packets, all of which he brought with wine for £15.00. His point was if you can buy dinner for two with wine in M+S, what hope is there for the restaurant. He continually referred back to the items and price, and stressed the importance of ensuring that restaurants and hotels ensure that their chefs are maximising the value of the product and that they are efficient with what they use, turning everything, where possible, into a product that can be sold. Alan also stressed the importance of offering the customer something more than they would be able to get across the counter at M+S with wine for £15.00. Anyone that thought that after five hours of great chefs and great displays of cooking and skill, that they were going to switch off think again when Mr Murchison is on the stage. His energy levels are almost infectious. His dishes were from one Duck Duck consommé duck leg rosti, smoked Duck Breast, Plus Duck and Foie Terrine. The day was rounded off by an outstanding meal, cooked by Willie Pyke and students from Motherwell College, where all of the invited guests, rather than wearing the traditional black tie affair, wore a chefs jacket -  why not?  What a great idea, except the only jacket that I have has a flag of St George on the arm! Like a lamb to the slaughter, I march on!!
Peter Evans

Peter Evans

Executive Chef 24th November 2010

The Scottish Chefs Conference