The Scottish Chefs Conference, Demonstrator chefs - John Johnstone

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 31st October 2015
The Scottish Chefs Conference arrives in Glasgow in two days! In anticipation for the event, we caught up with all of the demonstrator chefs at this year's special 10 year anniversary. Rounding off the week is John Johnstone, who is certified through the American culinary federation as one of only 64 master chefs in America.Augusta National Golf Club John has also been the Director of Club Operations at Augusta National Golf Club for the last five years. He has previously worked at various hotels and restaurants including The RitzCarlton, The Greenbrier Resort, Tavern on the Green, and Piping Rock Club. John has also acted as a Culinary Advisor for the USA Culinary Olympic Team after competing in the competition himself. What does it mean to you to be at the conference? It means a great deal. I live in America now and I have done for the last 25 years, but I was born and raised in Glasgow. So to come back to Scotland and be part of such a great conference it’s fantastic for me to be around some of the people I worked with when I was working in Britain. I was also on the British master chef team with Willie Pike, so it’s amazing to get back in and work with the team that I left quite some time ago.

>>> Read: Yesterday's interview with demonstrator Andrew Fairlie

Why did you want to be involved in this year's proceedings? Willie had told me that he wanted to invite certain chefs to come back that had a meaningful story to share. He was interested in my story of how I came to America. He asked me if there was a specific dish that was relevant to me as he wanted that to be a part of this conference. And there is a dish, it was the dish that brought me to America! What was the dish? It’s a tortellini of sweetbreads and langoustines with a vierge dressing. I was working in the south of France, on a very luxurious private yacht, which, when it wasn’t being used by the owner it was chartered. The gentleman that chartered the yacht, his name was McCaw and he’s an American billionaire. On the last night, I had cooked him this dish. He told me that it was one of the finest dishes he had ever tasted, and would I be interested in coming to America to be a chef. At the time I thought maybe he had a couple of glasses too many and I said ‘we can talk about it in the morning’. Ginger Pickled Cucumbers & Oysters with Beluga Caviar j Sure enough, at breakfast, he asked me to come and talk to him. He asked me if I had any questions or thoughts about last night, and I said ‘listen, I won’t hold you accountable to our conversation last night, because it was your last night on the yacht and you had a great time…’ and he said no, he was perfectly serious! He told me that his friend was a senator, so it would take six months to get me a working visa, and that if I was interested I needed to resign today! Of course I was interested but I couldn’t resign, I had bills to pay! When I told him that, he wrote me out a cheque for six month’s salary and left me a $12,000 tip. So I went back to Glasgow, and six months later he picked me up from Seattle airport. It’s a fairy-tale. The moral of the story for a chef is that one dish can change your life. Because it changed mine. They’re always saying ‘you’re only as good as your last’ and it really rings true for me. By Katie Pathiaki
The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 31st October 2015

The Scottish Chefs Conference, Demonstrator chefs - John Johnstone