Graeme Cheevers, Restaurant Martin Wishart, Cameron House

The  Staff Canteen
Graeme Cheevers is the head chef of Restaurant Martin Wishart, Cameron House Hotel, Loch Lomond. Graeme has been head chef for just over nine months in one of UK’s most acclaimed fine dining venues. The aim of Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond is to deliver a memorable, authentic and high quality Scottish dining experience. Graeme works with the freshest seasonal Scottish ingredients and adopts a wonderful blend of classic and contemporary methods of cooking. Joining him in Scotland, The Staff Canteen speaks to Graeme Cheevers. Graeme first and foremost give us an overview of your role as head chef at restaurant Martin Wishart Cameron House. My role as head chef at Martin Wishart Cameron House is to maintain the day to day running of the kitchen to a high standard set by Martin and myself. I also collaborate with Martin on new menus, new ideas and staff development, training up some of the younger guys into good chefs and utilising their skills within the team. It’s important to maintain our Michelin star and to be taking the business forward. How long have you been with Martin here at Loch Lomond Graeme? I've been with Martin for three years now, how time flies. In my current position for nine months, before that I was sous chef here at Martin Wishart Loch Lomond. So how have you evolved or adapted as a manager now that you’re a head chef? Basically stepping up from sous chef to head chef was a natural progression and something I was always aiming for. As the sous chef I was always given quite a lot of responsibility and always pushing to be better, pushing to take on more tasks and do more things to help the head chef out. So the step up was quite simple really. I already had a relationship there with the rest of the team. Did you find you had to take a little step away from being one of the lads, obviously you can’t go out getting…I'm not saying you did but you can’t go out getting drunk and there's got to be a line isn’t there? If you need to discipline someone then… That's the most important thing I think being able to not be one of the lads and show your authority when it’s required. I feel in the kitchen right now everyone gives the respect. No one oversteps the mark. Obviously there are occasions when you can have a laugh and enjoy the banter but the guys know when to draw the line and when it’s work it’s work so the two don’t cross. There's a good team spirit in the kitchen. And also you’re very hands on so you work with the boys as well don’t you? I'm a very hands on person I don’t like to just step back and sit in the office all day. There is a lot of paperwork to be done. I usually just stay behind at night time the end of the shift. During the day I certainly like helping out with the fish preparation, veg preparations, help on every section really, also it gives you a better understanding as to what the guys are doing, it’s something I love doing and feel its important. Talk us through your working relationship with Martin? How do you structure it? Is it a case of you'll come up with menu ideas, you'll present them to Martin, Martin will say yes, no, what about a little bit of this? Traditionally yes, we collaborate together to come up with new menus and ideas. I went to New York recently so that's help me progress my own style of food which is along the same line as martins its mainly French and European utilising Scottish produce and some modern techniques. Martin sent me over to New York, to see how other kitchen’s run, not just the food style but how other kitchens are maintained and managed on a day to day basis. So now Martin and I plan things together on menus I come up with the new menus, obviously sticking along the lines of Martin’s style but up at Cameron House we try to have our own identity as well as being part of Martin’s restaurants. Of course everything is checked by Martin before it goes onto the menu And just tell us where you went in New York? I went to Per Se I did a stage there for one week which Martin arranged for me, had a fantastic time obviously and managed to eat at 11 Madison park, Per se and Daniel’s which was the opportunity of a lifetime being in New York and eating at these great restaurants one after the other.  Martin set up for you before you became head chef? Martin sent me over there as I got the head chef job it was kind of a reward for the hard work. Wow how Fantastic is that where do I apply!!!. Ha-ha yes it was a great experience I guess you want it to be slightly different than Leith but you want people to know it’s the same almost, don’t you? You want people to know it’s a Martin Wishart Restaurant. It’s about finding a balance of Martin’s techniques and Martin’s style of cooking but using maybe some unusual different flavour combinations, techniques or something that’s our own identity but it’s still got Martin’s trademark on it. And if you had to describe the food style of the restaurant how would you describe it? It’s probably modern, French and European, it’s a kind of a mixture of all those, I wouldn’t say it was purely French or British. We've recently had the acorn fed Iberico pork on the menu, we use that type of meat because we believe it’s got a superior flavour and texture from any other breed of pig in Britain so we go further afield with our sourcing. We always try and source out the best produce locally and if that's not good we source from further afield, our main aim is quality and flavour. What we try and do is source the best ingredients Scottish where possible. We feel that this gives the customer the best dining experience. Graeme what’s been your biggest challenge as head chef? Biggest challenge of being the head chef is taking the step back from being one of the boys, being the head chef. It’s been a bit easier than I thought it would have been and the main reason is we always have new staff so the new boys we take on are relatively young and have got a good passion to learn and obviously they come in and they see me as the chef, but the biggest challenge has probably just been maintaining the staff and developing the staff that we have. Which is a challenge anyway Graeme. Yes it is but it’s something I enjoy. Last question for you then Graeme if I may, you’re very successful, without sounding patronising you’re 24 years old, you’re head chef of a Michelin star restaurant, one of Scotland’s best restaurants Martin Wishart Cameron House, where is this part in your career journey going to take you? Where do you want to be in five or ten year’s time? Five or ten years, I don’t want that to be the highlight of my career although it is a high point in my career. Sure yeah. It’ll be a good step up in my career but at the same time for the next five years I hope to still be in this current direction that I’m in now at this level, developing, pushing further. Personally for me something I'm passionate about is progressing so I hope to progress both this position and me personally. Within the next five years I would say I would still be here but pushing forward and always learning. Is there a goal to have your own restaurant? Within ten years I would hope to have my own restaurant yes that is the goal in the end. And on the fine dining lines? Yeah the same lines as what we're doing just now, that's really where my passion is. Sure. Well look Graeme thank you very much. I've really, really appreciated talking to you and enjoy the rest of your day off. Okay thanks Mark it has been a pleasure.
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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 14th August 2012

Graeme Cheevers, Restaurant Martin Wishart, Cameron House