Ian Boyd Thorpe, senior sous chef, The Peat Inn

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th December 2014
Ian Boyd-Thorpe is the senior sous chef at the Peat Inn, near St Andrews. Under the guidance of chef patron Geoffrey Smeddle, he has risen through the ranks since joining the team aged just 19. Starting as a commis chef, right out of college, the 24-year-old from Fife was 22 when he was made sous chef and six months ago he achieved his current role. Passionate about Scotland and its produce, Ian’s culinary roots are firmly set in his homeland and he hopes to one day own his own restaurant here too.Ian and Geoff 1 The Staff Canteen spoke to Ian about having a great mentor, the challenge of running the kitchen and his hopes of entering the Roux Scholarship. How did you get in to cooking? I almost want to say I fell into it. I’ve always loved cooking as a kid and did hospitality in school, but never really considered it a career. I ended up going to college to do catering. In the summer while I was waiting to go there I got a job as a commis chef in the local hotel. I ended up absolutely loving it, it was one of the best summers of my life, working in the kitchen and getting used to the industry. At the end of college I had to do a placement and I got asked to come up to the Peat Inn. On my third shift Geoff had put me on pastry, he had me making all the four components for the menu of the day dish, which I still remember; it was a nice chocolate pot with rosemary shortbread and a muscovado sugar mousse. At the end of that, he offered me a job as a full-time employee for when I finished college. That must have been a nice feeling? dessertIt was incredible. I still at that time had quite a lot left to do in college so I got stuck in and finished all the college work in about a week and a half, two weeks, started the next day almost and I’ve been here ever since. You’ve tried all the different stations; do you know which you enjoy the most? I love being on pastry and you have a lot of freedom in the pastry section here. Although Geoff oversees and designs the entire menu, he is prepared to give me a good degree of freedom on pastry because of the length of time I have been here. I also love butchering and cooking meat and fish. It’s brilliant – you see the meat changing in front of your eyes as you’re throwing butter all over it and roasting it in the oven. Just to get the whole concept of what’s going on is very interesting – to see everything changing in front of you. What are your responsibilities on a day to day basis? At the beginning, when you’re a commis chef or a chef de partie, you’re very much looking at one section, and you’ve got heads down and shutters on – you’re almost oblivious to what’s going on in the kitchen, because you’re so concerned about what’s going on in front of you. As you move up the ranks that has to change, and you have to open your eyes to what’s going on and to what everyone else is doing at the same time.starter 2 So now, being in the position I’m in, I have to pay attention to everybody. On a day to day basis for example, I’ll come in in the morning and check over the suppliers, ensuring all standards around the kitchen are maintained and making sure everything tastes as it should, the way that both myself and Geoff want it to. A lot of it’s about the paperwork too, it’s about keeping all the sections well organised for the guys, so they can concentrate on cooking. And training everyone, especially with our menu changing a lot – at the moment it changes almost every week. Winter’s a brilliant season; a lot of things come and go very quickly, so we have to adapt. How important to your and your team’s development is training?
Where you’ve worked: 2006-2008 The Lomond Hills Hotel- commis chef under Robin Fraser 2008-2009 Ostlers Close Restaurant- commis chef under Jimmy Graham 2009-present The Peat Inn Restaurant- commis-snr sous chef under Geoffrey Smeddle Dream Brigade: Ken Forkish (Ken's Artisan) on bread Thomas Keller (The French Laundry) on canapes and amuse Phillip Howard (The Square) on larder Brett Graham (The Ledbury) on garnish Geoffrey Smeddle (The Peat Inn) on sauce Yannick Aleno (Restaurant Ledoyen) on the pass Jocky (The Ledbury) on pastry Myself dining on the chef table Favourite ingredients: St Andrews Bay Lobster: blanched in well salted and well sugared water (to taste like sea water) then removed from the shell, cleaned, returned to shell and gently steamed, then finished with sea weed butter sauce Beetroot (all shapes, sizes and colour): grown in our own garden, salt baked and served with fresh goats curd Scottish feathered game, especially grouse: simply roasted on the bone, served with a pate made of its own livers and heart Amedei Chocolate (65%): made into a cremeaux, glorious flavour, texture and shine.
I think in the kitchen, you’re always training, and I’m still learning every day. That’s one of the best things about the industry; you’re always learning, there’s always something else going on, as long as your eyes are open to what’s going on around you, not just in your restaurant, but in all the restaurants in the rest of Scotland, the UK and even around the world. Everyone’s always doing something new; everyone’s doing something or using new ingredients you’ve never seen before that you can take and adapt to fit into your own restaurant – it’s great. But yes, training in our premises is very important, whether it’s just showing someone how to cut a certain vegetable or turn a potato right on through to teaching how to plate up a dish – not just showing the skill, but also telling them why that’s important and what would happen if they didn’t do that. Being where you are, it’s helped you develop not just as a chef but in other ways as well hasn’t it? Yes, I’m a completely different person to the teenager I was when I started. It’s given me confidence and cooking skills, but being able to manage an entire cooking team as well is absolutely fantastic. The life and joy of that is down to Geoff, a very strong mentor figure in my life. Everything that he’s done, all the things he has in place to train people, and his ethos is fantastic - that really rubs off on me and gives me the attitude I have today. What’s the most challenging moment you’ve had in your current role, and how have you overcome that? I can’t really pinpoint any one moment in my role as such, every day’s a challenge. I remember the first time Geoff finally took a holiday from the business, he left for two weeks and basically left me the keys. We have a very good restaurant manager who’s been here for about fourteen years; he took care of the whole front of house so it was just the kitchen I had to take care of. I remember that to be a very tough couple of weeks, but extremely rewarding after. What are you hoping to achieve in the future? We have a lot of exciting opportunities happening in the business in the future; we have a restaurant refurb happening; there is going to be an extensive refurbishment which will impact how the kitchen runs as there will be a slight increase in covers – that’s happening in January. There are a lot of exciting things to talk about there, and to be part of that planning is going to be great, so I’ll definitely hang around for that. The next step is to get me up to the head chef position and I’m going to start entering a few different competitions around as well, to get me into that game and really understand what’s going on outside of the restaurant. Are there any competitions in particular that you fancy doing? I entered National Chef of the Year last year and got into the semi-finals. I’m looking at entering the Roux Scholarship hopefully this year and Scottish Chef of the Year as well. It all depends on timings, because these competitions are quite a big commitment. What’s your cooking style then? Have you found it yet, or are you still experimenting?mains 2 I think I’m on my way, but it’s hard for me because all I’ve known is The Peat Inn for so long. I look at a lot of cookbooks for various one star and two star restaurants, especially in London, and I’m always researching. I’ve done various stages as well, worked in a few other restaurants in London too. A lot of our cooking though is based on classic French techniques but then using local ingredients, and modern cooking as well. It’s very refined cooking, but very homely at the same time; big flavours, and I guess that’s where we’re going. You did a vegan menu for Vegan Month. How did that go? It’s great cooking for vegans because it’s very tough and challenging. It gets everyone excited, it gets everyone being creative and thinking and coming up with nice dishes without using all the dairy and meat products. That’s the hardest thing with them; it’s always tricky not putting any dairy or eggs into things. It’s good fun though, it takes you out your comfort zone, and when you’re out of your comfort zone, sometimes that’s when the best things can happen. mains 1What would your dream restaurant be like? I’m very humble to Scotland, as you can probably tell! A large majority of that probably comes from not experiencing much else; I’ve travelled France a little bit, and absolutely love the French dining, it’s phenomenal. But I see myself setting up a nice farmhouse or a coach inn and again using local produce. I’d like to grow a lot more produce than buy it in, and to be as self-sufficient as possible would be incredible, because it creates the story behind the cooking.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 17th December 2014

Ian Boyd Thorpe, senior sous chef, The Peat Inn