10 Minutes with Claire Bryce, Pastry Chef, Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 6th October 2017

Claire Bryce is a chef de partie and pastry chef working under Graeme Cheevers, head chef at the renowned Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond, which has retained a star in the Michelin Guide UK since 2011.

Speaking with The Staff Canteen, Claire tells us a bit about working in her first fine-dining job with Graeme, her journey into the industry, the people and places that have influenced her love of food and what the future has in store for her.

strawberry fennel and  white chocolate with strawberry and yoghurt sorbet

strawberry fennel and 

white chocolate with

strawberry and yoghurt sorbet

Claire’s interest in food started at an early age, inspired by her summer holidays with family and friends, she credits her affinity to desserts and pastry cooking to the influence of her uncle.

“I used to go on holiday to France and Spain, we went to a different place almost every year, places like Girona and San Sebastián. We always went around the markets and tapas bars trying foods and my uncle used to take me to the bakeries every morning, which sort of instigated my love of pastry. I always had fond memories of holidays and I suppose my favourite memories of them were always food-related, so from there I fell in love with cooking.”

Since then, Claire secured her first job in her local Dominos, a humble introduction into the hospitality industry, but a starting point nonetheless. From there, she completed an apprenticeship, giving her a first experience of working in a proper kitchen, as well as the motivation to further her career in a positive direction. So how did she come to work at a Michelin starred restaurant? Claire explains boredom to be one of the reasons that led her to Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond.

“I was simply bored of my old job, working at weddings and various functions. At the time, I didn’t have the slightest clue about fine dining, apart from that I knew I liked the look of refined food and had a curiosity for interesting and unusual ingredients. A google search led me to Martin Wishart and I applied for a job at Leith, which is when Graeme Cheevers contacted me and asked if I’d like to go for a trial at Loch Lomond instead. I fell in love with it instantly. Thankfully he offered me a job!”

Working with Graeme Cheevers

When asked about working with Graeme, Claire explained that he is great at harnessing creativity and is always encouraging his staff to improve their recipes in their own ways.

Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond
Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond

“He has taught me everything I know. I walked in having worked in a hotel where I was essentially lifting things out of packets and onto plates, making sandwiches, that sort of thing. I knew nothing.”

Claire credits Graeme’s guidance as giving her the self-confidence to create her own dishes, having taught her the importance of self-patience in improving her skills. Claire has enjoyed the chance that working at Loch Lomond has given her to explore her interests in cooking and the openness to express her creativity.

“I like the freedom that I’m given to create my own dishes and try whatever I like. If it works I’m allowed to elevate it and change it, it’s completely open to my own creativity and there is no wrong doing.”

Claire also mentions other chefs who have influenced her, including Heston Blumenthal’s scientific approach to food and “how he elevates everything to a completely new level, which isn’t about just cooking”, as well as the simplicity that Michel Roux Jr. cooks with, perfecting the combinations of his chosen ingredients.

Being a female chef working in a male-dominated industry

Being female, Claire sits with the minority of professional chefs, in an industry that is considerably male-dominated. But she has never let this hinder her and often sees it as a chance to prove her worth. When asked about her experience of being a female chef, she replied:

Classic gateaux opera
Classic gateaux opera

“I thrive off it. When you walk into a male-only kitchen, sometimes they expect nothing from you, so you have the opportunity to surprise people with your ability. You can show that you are able to do a job as well as any male in the industry, if not better. Really, I don’t find it to be an advantage or disadvantage to my career, it’s what I love doing and I don’t think my gender should get in the way of that.”

For Claire, achieving success as a chef comes down to hard work, creativity and a little bit of self-belief. Her advice, “Be sure that it [cooking] is what you want to do. It is a difficult job and you have to give up a lot. Be prepared to work hard. But if you do have the love for it, it’s rewarding in so many ways.”

Finally, Claire leaves us with a word about her future:

“Given the opportunity, I’d like to work around the world and learn about different cultures, cuisines and ingredients. Eventually I’d like to take that and find a place that I love, wherever it may be, and start up my own restaurant.”

By Joe Davis

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 6th October 2017

10 Minutes with Claire Bryce, Pastry Chef, Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond