Billy Boyter, chef/owner, The Cellar, Anstruther

The Staff Canteen

Billy Boyter is a new edition to the Michelin Guide with his restaurant The Cellar in Anstruther, Scotland, receiving a star in the 2016 list.

He began his journey as a chef age 17 when he headed to college in Fife, he then worked in Perthshire, including two years at the award-winning Ballathie House, before joining the Michelin-starred Martin Wishart at his eponymous restaurant in Edinburgh. From there it was on to the Michelin-starred No 1 Restaurant at the city’s Balmoral Hotel, where he progressed head chef.

With the backing of his mum and dad, Billy and Fiona, who still live in Anstruther, Billy bought The Cellar in 2013 and, as he was still working full-time at the No 1, it has been a real joint effort with family and friends refurbishing it.

The Staff Canteen spoke to Billy about achieving a Michelin Star, his menu and the inspiration behind his dishes and his plans for the future.

Becoming a chef and career to date

Why did you want to be a chef?billy boyter low res

I didn’t! It was totally by accident, in my family on both sides they are all fisherman. So I always thought I would go down that route or go off shore into the oil industry. I left school not knowing what I wanted to do, took a summer job as a KP in a hotel and then they asked if I wanted a shot in the kitchen. I loved it and it just carried on from there. I decided I wanted to do it properly so I went to college in Fife and worked part time in a seafood restaurant. Once I finished college I went on to work in different restaurants around the country.

Throughout your career you’ve always stayed in Scotland, was that a conscious decision?

I did think about going to London, I have friends who went after college like Neil Borthwick at The Merchant Tavern; I always thought it was something I wanted to do but the way my career [panned out, I ended up staying in Scotland. I did a lot of competitions when I was at college though, I was part of the Scottish Junior Culinary Team, so I got to go to New Zealand to compete over there and Chicago, Boston, Luxemburg, Germany – doing that was very inspiring as a young chef. It really opened my eyes to the whole culinary industry.

Top ingredients

Mara Seaweed: I love using seaweed. Fresh or the dried seaweed from Mara, we use it quite a lot in the kitchen for seasoning fish/shellfish. We also like using it in our homemade butter.

Katy Rodgers Natural Yogurt and creme fraiche, Knockraich Farm: The creme fraiche is used in our butter and also for a crab dish we have on at the moment. Also we smoke the yogurt for our Pork Belly and Oyster dish. I find myself over using it sometimes but its such a good product.

Barley: I don't know if its because I'm Scottish or not but I love using Barley on our menu. At the moment we use it in our pre dessert which is a Barley and Hive Whisky pudding. So we toast and cook the Barley like a rice pudding, then puree it down and turn it into a warm espuma. Which we serve with a buttermilk ice-cream and apple jelly with frosted hazelnut.

Oyster Leaf and other shore herbs: I love foraging (when i have the time). I love using Sea Aster, Sea Arrow-grass, Oyster leaf and other fresh tasting sea herbs on the menu. Although the oyster leaf we use is not foraged I love the flavour and freshness it brings to a dish.

One of my greatest influences was my tutor at college, Scott Lyle. He really inspired me into cooking but also my attitude towards cooking as well. After that I would say Craig Sandle who was my head chef at Restaurant Number One. He was quite a character and had a big influence on my career.

In terms of your cooking style, are there any chefs who have influenced you?

One of my greatest influences was my tutor at college, Scott Lyle. He really inspired me into cooking but also my attitude towards cooking as well. After that I would say Craig Sandle who was my head chef at Restaurant Number One. He was quite a character and had a big influence on my career.

>>> See recipes from Craig Sandle

Opening your own restaurant

Do you think you have your own style now or is it still developing?

It’s still developing. I think our food is unique to us but I can see how it’s developed in the time we have been at The Cellar, it’s slowly developing into something which is uniquely ours. I wouldn’t say I’m there yet, I wouldn’t say I have an absolute style I can call my own.

You’ve had The Cellar for 18 months, tell us about why you decide to open your own restaurant?

I’d always wanted my own place but I always wanted to move back home to Fife and I was just lucky that The Cellar came on the market. I spoke to my parents and I was fortunate to be in a position to go in and buy it. From there we put our heart and souls into it and revived it.

The menu

Talk us through the menu.

We are very much focused on Scottish produce and we use as much local produce as we can get. Before we took over The Cellar it was known as a seafood restaurant but I didn’t want to do that, it is little coastal town but I have a great passion for Scottish game and I didn’t want to not use that on the menu. We are very much a seasonal restaurant and use what is available at the time. It’s a small menu and we have a tasting menu as well but I didn’t want to have a huge menu and lose any of the quality of what we are doing. I wanted to really focus on the quality and the consistency of the food.

And the dishes themselves, do you have a favourite or one that has been on the menu since the beginning?

One I’m most proud of is the confit pork belly, from Clash Farm in Stranraer. It’s marinated with yoghurt, marmite, fennel seeds and we do a tempura oyster with that as well. There is also a smoked yoghurt puree and a lovage emulsion. It goes down well with guests and all the individual flavours really stand out but marry together nicely too. the cellar interior low res

What inspires your dishes?

I do a lot of reading, I don’t purposefully try and keep up with trends but I really like the Scandinavian approach to cooking – the simpleness of the ingredients and just making sure you use the best ingredients you can get. That’s my biggest inspiration but also seasonality – the dishes are ingredient led.

Any unusual ingredients you like to use?

I use seaweed quite a lot for seasonings for fish and also for a lamb dish I do.

The Michelin Guide

You received a Michelin star this year, was it always the aim?

In a way it was a long term goal and we always thought the standard of our cooking was good, I never thought the standard was any less than when I was head chef at Number One but we never opened the restaurant with our aim being to get a star. The fact it came quickly was a shock for us.

Do you think it’s harder to get a star in Scotland?

I think so. Unfortunately, looking at Scotland over the past few years no one has really gained and we lost three this year. I don’t know how Michelin work but they look for a certain standard and they want the consistency there but there are a lot of really good new restaurants in Scotland so I’m hoping over the next few years we can regain a few of the ones we’ve lost.

So, how do you stand out against other Michelin restaurants?barbary duck

Like I said, I don’t think we have nailed our style of cooking but I do think we stand out from everyone else in Scotland. The great thing about The Cellar is it’s a tiny restaurant we have just 20 covers and I feel we always have that consistency.

Favourite ingredients

We are seeing more and more that vegetables are becoming the star of the plate, are they an ingredient you enjoy working with?

Absolutely! It’s great that they are not a second thought anymore and it’s nice that chefs are seeking out better quality of veg, even the core vegetables like carrots and onions – everyone wants a high standard, the same as you would look for in your meat or fish. During the summer we had a duck special with peach and carrot, to me sourcing the carrot was as important as the duck and we treated it with the same respect. So many people commented on the carrot before the duck with that dish. It shows that you put care into something people appreciate it and receive it.

You said you are passionate about Scottish game, what do you have on the menu at the moment?

We have grouse on the menu now, it’s with salt baked celeriac and a savoury granola with a rose and bramble puree.

>>> Grouse recipes
cherry, chocolate, pistachio

Your ingredients, are they all from suppliers or do you forage and grow your own?

I do try to forage but since we’ve got the star it’s come to a bit of a stop! Finding the time is a bit difficult just now. During the summer there are a lot of really nice sea plants and sea vegetables round here so I would spend a morning gathering what I needed. But I don’t overly focus on putting foraged ingredients on the menu I just know locally there are things I can go and get if I need too which is lovely, I couldn’t do it when I was in the city in Edinburgh.

I think it’s an advantage being able to do that as you are hand picking exactly what you want. My suppliers I have been using since I was at Balmoral so I have a good relationship with them, they know I have a smaller operation now and they take a lot of care with what they send.

Now you have a Michelin star, what are your future plans?

Since we’ve opened we’ve got better and better so really I just want to see that continue and just naturally grow. Getting the star is not going to see us expand or anything like that, hopefully it will bring us more business but I want to grow the business organically and just look after it.

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Editor 13th October 2015

Billy Boyter, chef/owner, The Cellar, Anstruther