Chris Turnbull, Head Pastry Chef, The Kitchin

The Staff Canteen

Chris Turnbull is head pastry chef at Tom Kitchin’s Edinburgh restaurant, The Kitchin which achieved its first star in the Michelin Guide UK back in 2007.

Chris’s dream was always to work with a chef who he really respected, Tom Kitchin, so when the opportunity arose to join the Michelin-starred chef at his Edinburgh-based restaurant, Chris jumped at the chance. As head pastry chef, Chris utilises Scotland’s natural larder to create classic dishes with a contemporary twist reflecting the restaurant’s ‘From Nature to Plate’ philosophy.

The Staff Canteen spoke to Chris about being inspired by the classics, what it’s like working with Michelin-starred chef, Tom Kitchin and serving 100 soufflés on a daily basis.

Sea Buckthorn and yoghurt, Knockraich Farm yoghurt panna cotta served with Granny Smith apple sorbet and East Lothian sea buckthorn consommé

Sea Buckthorn and yoghurt,

Knockraich Farm yoghurt panna cotta

served with

Granny Smith apple sorbet

and East Lothian sea buckthorn consommé

Had you always had an interest in pastry?

I’ve always been interested in cooking. My real passion for pastry grew during my first chef job at Glenskirlie Restaurant when I was 16 and was given the opportunity to work on the pastry section. Since then, at The Kitchin, my love for pastry has grown and I enjoy developing recipes and constantly working with the seasons to come up with new creations. I like using classics for inspiration and then I add my own contemporary twist to create something unique and exciting.

How did you end up working at the Kitchin?

Working at The Kitchin with chef Tom Kitchin has always been a dream for me. I was working at another restaurant and told myself I wouldn’t leave unless a position at The Kitchin restaurant opened up. Luckily for me, I heard a position was available, and the rest is history!

What’s Tom Kitchin like to work with?

Tom is an incredible mentor and a constant inspiration to me – I’m in awe of his work every day, even after three years of working together. He really looks after his staff, both professionally and personally, which is why we have such a solid team at the restaurant.

Was it daunting going to work for someone who had trained under so many renowned chefs?

I wouldn’t say I was daunted, just incredibly excited about the learning experience that was ahead of me. I genuinely feel honoured to learn from a chef who has worked with such legendary, talented people in the industry. I believe the key to success in this industry is a willingness to constantly learn new things and pass on that knowledge to others.

>>> Related: Tom Kitchin, Chef/Patron, The Kitchin, Edinburgh

How do you work on desserts for the menu?

As with everything else we serve at The Kitchin, our desserts are dictated by the Scottish seasons. The dishes I create are very much led by the seasons and I relish the chance to create something fresh and new. Every ingredient we work with is fresh, seasonal and locally sourced so our suppliers dictate the menu to a certain extent, depending on what they deliver that day.

Info Bar

Signature desserts 

Sea buckthorn and yoghurt panna cotta served with granny smith apple sorbet and East Lothian sea buckthorn consommé and our strawberry and basil mille-feuille.

Dessert island deserts 

I’m quite a traditional guy so they would probably be hot chocolate fondant, vanilla crème brûlée, sticky toffee pudding, blueberry soufflé and a good quality profiterole with chantilly cream and chocolate sauce.

Does Tom have much involvement?

We have a collaborative approach. I’ll come up with a dish or recipe for Tom to taste and then we try it together to see if it needs any development. We have quite a similar taste and style and I really respect his opinion, so bouncing ideas off of one other really works.

Do you find it hard to recruit pastry chefs?

We’re quite lucky at The Kitchin; we’ve never struggled to recruit chefs – who wouldn’t want to work under one of Scotland’s leading chefs?

Why do you think pastry is still such a specialised area?

I think it might be because of its intricate nature – there’s a really creative side to all cooking but especially when it comes to pastry. It’s like creating a work of art. As well as tasting great, it has to be visually impressive, so you need to have patience and a real passion, otherwise, it just won’t work. We are constantly aiming to surprise and delight guests which is what they want from a dessert.

What is your favourite ingredient to work with?

Scottish strawberries – I love the versatility and unique flavour. In the past, they’ve featured on our menu as powder, dust, crisps, consommé and ice cream and always bring something different to a dish every time.

What’s your favourite dish currently on the menu?

The sea buckthorn and yoghurt panna cotta served with granny smith apple sorbet and East Lothian sea buckthorn consommé. Sea buckthorn is a small, vibrant orange berry that grows plentifully along the Scottish coastline. It isn’t an ingredient that’s commonly found on many menus, however, we source ours locally and it adds a unique, sharp taste to the dish without being too sweet. It’s been incredibly popular and we’ve served different versions of it over the past year.

Rhubarb cheesecake
Rhubarb cheesecake

Where do you find inspiration for your dishes?

My inspiration comes from working with chef Tom Kitchin. I’ve learnt a lot from Tom, particularly the way his dishes are inspired by the seasons and the way he works closely with suppliers to source only the best ingredients.

Do you remember the first dessert you ever made?

Yes - it was a white chocolate and glayva basket – very 1980s!

Do you have a signature dish that is always on the menu or has maybe evolved over the years?

There’s always a soufflé on the menu at The Kitchin. Most days, we have three different types of soufflé on the menu, using different ingredients to create unique flavours and textures. We normally serve around 100 soufflés a day so it’s definitely a popular dish, and one I really enjoy making! Tom was trained by the master of soufflés – the talented chef, Pierre Koffmann. It was great to learn the very best techniques for achieving the perfect soufflé.

What’s next for the future?

I plan to keep my head down, work hard and continue being a part of the Kitchin journey. My role is constantly evolving and I’m excited about the experience that lies ahead.

*A question from our sponsors Callebaut:

What is your signature dish to celebrate Father’s Day?

My daughter Eilidh loves to make cakes and biscuits for me on Father's Day. She's quite the baker! Her secret ingredient is custard powder so I'm hoping she's been back in the kitchen with her brother Alfie, preparing some treats for me this year.

Every year for Father's Day, my wife and I make nostalgic trays of puff candy or cinder toffee for our dads. Both of them love it so it's become a bit of a tradition in our household to make it year after year as part of a gift.

Are you interested in a career as a Pastry Chef? Find all the information and jobs available here

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 20th June 2017

Chris Turnbull, Head Pastry Chef, The Kitchin