'All these little hiccups along the way don't help, but it's just another challenge in the road'

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 6th October 2020

Since joining the team at Glasgow's Cail Bruich last month, Lorna McNee, award-winning chef, former sous-chef at Restaurant Andrew Fairlie and Great British Menu 2019 Champion of Champions, said that all things considered, "It's going well."

"The team are all starting to get to know each other a bit better and working a bit more fluidly together." 

Being a head chef for the first time, she said, is as much a positive as it is a challenge. 

Stepping up to the plate

"It's different from being a chef in a kitchen just cooking, there's a lot more that you've got to do - managing the guys, the menus and dishes and actually evolving things, there's a lot more involved than I previously thought, but I think I'm getting there. Lots of learning curves on the way," she said. 

"I thought I would get it all done in an hour in the day and that'd be fine, but everyday there are more and more things you need to look at, pass your eye over stuff." 

The general response from guests, she said, has been overwhelmingly positive - but too humble to say it is down to the food alone, she added: "I think everyone is just happy to be getting out and about, to be able to spoil themselves and enjoy a meal rather than being stuck at home." 

One might look at Cail Bruich and see how busy and popular it has been since it reopened with Lorna the helm, and think that things are (comparatively) normal.

And according to the chef, operations were mostly run of the mill - other than the daily temperature checks, increased hand washing and sanitising which have become a part of all operators' routine - until the 10pm curfew came into effect a fortnight ago. 

For Lorna, guest satisfaction is everything, and hasty fine dining isn't what they're aiming for at Cail Bruich, so naturally, the measure has taken some adjusting to. 

"That's part of why we love our job: We love creating food but we love to see people enjoy our food," she said.  

Thankfully, she added, guests have been very receptive. 

"That's the main goal - you want to make people happy by showing them how you express yourself on a plate, so it's good that we're still able to achieve that."

"They tell us how happy they are with our procedures and how safe they feel in our restaurant," she said. "So there's lots to take on board, but it's all part of the challenge isn't it." 

What next?

As the threat of further restrictions looms over Scotland, of the potential impact on the restaurant and the hospitality, the chef said: "It's massive." 

"From my point of view, it's really hard to have everyone under one blanket. We're a fine dining restaurant - we're not a pub where students hang out or somewhere where people are getting drunk and falling all over each other." 

"It's a soft setting rather than people jumping around," she continued, "so to have a blanket full lockdown seems a bit unfair." 

"I totally understand why they're doing it, it's for the safety of our people which I totally get but people like us, we're trying to completely stick to the rules that we're being asked to, so there shouldn't be any outbreaks in our restaurant." 

"We're really trying to stick to the procedures. To say that we could go into a two week lockdown, it's hard." 

Even with regards to produce and prep, "what they don't seem to understand is that there's lots of process, some things can take up to a week to do, it's not just a case of coming in and cooking it and it's done - it's not like that." 

"To have to shut it down and restart again for two weeks, for us that's three or four weeks, because of all the preparation we have to do in advance of that." 

Come what may

However, not one to recoil in the face of a challenge, should another lockdown be imposed, the chef said she and her team will just roll with the punches.

"I like to try and overcome these things as good fun," she said. 

"As a new head chef it's always going to be like that - you're never going to go in to this with a clear idea of what things are going to be like in a month, it's more like a six month to a year project." 

With all the stoicism and might she is known for, the chef is content with taking it all on the chin.

"All these little hiccups along the way don't help, but it's just another challenge in the road," she said.  

"I'm happy, the guys are happy, that's the main thing. Everyone's enjoying themselves and learning at the same time - that is so important. We're all in it together and we're all happy." 

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 6th October 2020

'All these little hiccups along the way don't help, but it's just another challenge in the road'