Stewart Boyles, Head Chef, Martin Wishart, Loch Lomond

The  Staff Canteen
Stewart Boyles is head chef at Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond. The Michelin-starred restaurant is a fine dining destination on the shores of one of Scotland's most beautiful lochs. Today, The Staff Canteen caught up with Stewart to speak to him about his day-to-day role at Martin Wishart's acclaimed restaurant. Stewart, if we can start by asking you to introduce yourself; give us a brief of your role, your responsibilities, number of covers, just an overview of what you do here at Martin Wishart Cameron House? I'm the head chef at Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond. I organise the staff and work closely with Martin to develop the dishes.   Martin comes up to the restaurant about once every week or two; and we'll also discuss ideas for dishes over the phone.   We are closed for lunch on a Wednesday, Thursday and Friday so obviously those days we'll work on new dishes, or tweak dishes, so when Martin is here, we can taste them together. And how many guys do you have on your team? We've got five and myself, so six of us in total. Because we're shut two days a week it's the same chefs on every section, so you have a lot of consistency from that point. We do train and shift guys around the sections a lot, a chef will do two or three months on a section and we'll all do our best to move them forward and we'll try and train them. We've got a commis now who started off as a KP and he's doing a fantastic job helping out in the kitchen and learning to do some of the larder and mise en place. And would you say that Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond there's similarities between the food that's served here and the food that's served in Leith? There is and there isn't; some of the styles, preparations, and concepts of a lot of the dishes are very similar. And at the beginning certainly, yes we were taking proven dishes from Leith, as I worked with Martin in Leith for a long time but there's also dishes here that are probably more aimed towards the type of clientele we get at the hotel.  We do a lot of very classic dishes, but also we do some quite modern techniques. For example, we do a côte de veau for two, carved at the table. Martin's own smoked salmon, carved at the table, so it"˜s a little bit different than what happens in Leith but certainly the techniques are very similar. How do you feel you've evolved in the three years you've been here as head chef? Well quite a lot. I was head chef for Martin on a consultancy project in Edinburgh for two years before this role, so we probably worked together more outside of each other's kitchen than in the same kitchen. I've certainly evolved into knowing what he wants and what we're trying to gain. I certainly believe I feel more confident to experiment and to try and push things forward. It's not just a simple matter of coming up, changing the menu and that's it because there is room for improvement all the time.... What's been your biggest challenge then, in that three year period? I would say the biggest challenge is actually where we are located; although it is in a fantastic setting, it's not easy. We don't have staff accommodation and, you know, it's quite a commitment to come up here Because obviously in Edinburgh you've got quite a big catchment of people haven't you Well you've got people that move to Edinburgh and then find a job. Yeah. Whereas here staff need to relocate for the job. For example, I've recently employed a young lad that from Cornwall and he flew up for his interview; he came in, spent a day in the kitchen and we felt that it was the right way forward and we needed to find him accommodations. He has done well but we've had similar situations where it hasn't worked out. All my team are fantastic, they are all focussed, they are all driven, they are all very interested in improving and doing their best, but that's not always the case when you're looking for staff. So I certainly think we've been very lucky to find such a fantastic group of chefs, but that was probably one of the major challenges. Is the restaurant a standalone business here? Yes, we are, however I think we get the best of both worlds here as Cameron House makes a great setting for the restaurant.  We decide what we're going to do and -we get the business from the hotel which is certainly welcome but we don't have any interference, politics, there's no worrying about what's happening outside of the restaurant. It's very much working with Martin and his team from Leith Joe and Ricky and Stephen. How do you feel your cooking has evolved in that period of time then? You mentioned that when you first came it was almost tried and tested dishes that you took from Leith, whereas now, you are kind of working with Martin but much more sort of expressing yourself in your own way. How do you feel that you have evolved as a chef? Oh, leaps and bounds I'd say. I think every time we change a dish I feel that we've moved forward, I think the dishes are a lot more confident if anything. we've got a great dish right now, of quail with a mushroom bouillon; and it very much feels that all the components go well together. There's harmony in the dish and as with all the dishes on the menu there's great flavour. I certainly think the dishes are a lot more expressive and I think the clients, the customers certainly feel that the quality levels are there.  I wouldn't say that we didn't have quality when we started but I certainly think that they feel quite confident in what we're doing; they're very happy to try everything on the menu and we get very good feedback from them. Good. You mention there one of the biggest challenges you had was resourcing and staffing; how therefore is it important that when you've got staff you look after them, you train them, you develop them; do you put a large focus on that? Oh absolutely. I mean you can't just expect to not to show the guys anything and just kick them around and expect that they are going to do work for you, from first thing in the morning till last thing at night every day in the week and not be tempted to move on. I certainly think that the guys that we get in to work with us here, they give as much as they get. They are very keen, they have high work ethic. They've got a really good attitude and you really want to try and give them the best you can. So that might be as much as teaching them how to do more dishes, or techniques or seasoning; it might actually be teaching them how to organise themselves, how to carry themselves as chefs and, you know, instilling the sort of morals in the industry, what's important, what to strive for. You want them to do the best they can. Okay. Last question for you then Stewart if I can; you've been with Martin a long time, three years here, where do you want this to take you? Where do you see yourself now in your career and where do you want to be in five years time? I think for the meantime I'm really happy with the way things are going here. We're not looking for a scoop here by the way! No, I'm really happy with the way things are and moving this business forward It's a great opportunity for you isn't it? It's fantastic and I think we can take it further.  I think that we can improve on what we have and I think I see a very good future for this in the short term.  Ultimately I would really like to look at having my own business... Do you think something like this is a great stepping stone to do that? Well I suppose it certainly is. You are in one of the highest profile restaurants in Scotland, it can't be a bad thing really can it? No, I mean it's certainly been a learning curve; I've learned more than just running a kitchen h ere. I understand  how the wine is ordered and how the wine list is compiled and how the serving staff work together. It's very much about an understanding of the whole restaurant, all the pieces from the suppliers to the technicians, to everything it takes to make the place run smoothly. It's been a great opportunity working with Martin and understanding how to run a business Images with kind permission of  Alan Donaldson Photography
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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 2nd August 2011

Stewart Boyles, Head Chef, Martin Wishart, Loch Lomond