Stevie McLaughlin, Head Chef @ Restaurant Andrew Fairlies, Gleneagles, Perthshire kindly agreed to have an interview by email to give a small insight into his cooking inspirations and family lockdown time!
Who taught you to cook?
My main influence and mentor throughout my career has been Andrew Fairlie. First and foremost Andrew taught me respect. He taught me to respect myself, to respect others and to always respect the produce we were working with. He taught me restraint, knowing and understanding when less is more and that quality is always first.
As a young chef training and growing up in the era that I did, I gained huge gastronomic inspiration from Michel and Albert Roux. Their passion was immense and infectious and their books were an important source of information for me. They still inspire me now and I look up to the Roux family in so many ways.
When did you know you wanted to be a chef and what was your first job?
At 17 I attended an open day at the Glasgow College of Food Technology where a chef lecturer made a delicious buttery pastry. I was immediately captivated by its flavour, texture and how it made me feel. I knew from that point I wanted to know more….
While travelling to and from college I would pass One Devonshire Gardens, an award winning boutique townhouse hotel in Glasgow. I knew it was the best restaurant in town and that I would love to work there one day…
I remember my first shift, it was a Thursday morning and I was asked to pick salad leaves, heads of lettuce and fresh herbs. Most of which I had no idea what they were or what they were for. What I did know was that the job I was doing at some point in the day there would be a customer ordering and eating these leaves that I had prepared and I found that really exciting.
What is the one ingredient you can’t live without?
I love flaky sea salt for both flavour and texture. I really admire and respect the power of salt – it can completely elevate or ruin a dish by a margin as small as only 2 or 3 grains. As a result, we put a lot of emphasis on teaching chefs how to use it properly and how to understand it – because if you use it correctly, it will genuinely change your life.
How important are small local suppliers to the menu @ Restaurant Andrew Fairlies?
Sourcing and working with brilliant suppliers and the finest producers is what keeps us inspired from day to day. As so much of our cuisine is produce led we are extremely fortunate to have established relationships and friendships with a number of suppliers over such a long period of time. Our walled Victorian garden is a huge source of inspiration and during the prime growing months of May to September 95% of the vegetables we serve in the restaurant we have grown ourselves.
We exclusively grow heritage varieties and true baby vegetables along with herbs and cresses you simply cannot buy in the shops. This helps to keep our creativity flowing and keeps it interesting for our customers.
What is the best part of your job?
The best parts for me are to be able to work alongside talented young people and having access to and working with incredible produce. I am also fortunate to have the opportunity to travel and eat around the world.
Luckily for me there are no negative aspect to my job. I enjoy every part of it and have created a healthy work/life balance.
With lockdown affecting everyone do you cook at home with your children?
My days are filled with family dinners and getting the children interested and curious to taste new things – especially during lockdown when food is a main topic.
We have raised beds at home which I love to cook from. This also teaches my children the importance of growing your own and the benefits of eating from the land. It is really great getting the children involved – last night my daughter and I cooked a minced beef, tomato and herb ragu and with the leftovers we made a Lasagna for another day. It is important to teach the children not to waste food and how we can create simple and delicious meals.
Textures and flavours that I cook in the Restaurant do inspire dishes we cook at home together as a family.
Is there a favourite family lockdown dish?
I love reading the brilliant Yotam Ottolenghi and so many of our family teas are inspired by recipes from his books with the addition of our own little tweaks. We all love eating pulses and using soft spices where we can. We cook a dish of basmati rice, green lentils, turmeric and allspice topped with sweet and crispy fried onions.
What superhero would you like to be?!
I’d like to be a Supervillan if I may ….. Bane from DC Comics please!