HIGH FRYERS: SCOTLAND’S CHEF-PATRONS MAKING THEIR MARK ON THE SCOTTISH CULINARY SCENE

JUDITH FISH The Applecross Inn, Strathcarron

Judith Fish was decorated with an MBE by the Queen in the New Year’s Honours for services to Highland tourism and has become rather a celebrity since. “All the attention has been flattering’” she said. As chef-patron at the Applecross Inn, she admits that she doesn’t cook as much as she used to but she still keeps her hand in. She said, “I cooked everything for the first ten years. Now, I enjoy doing the breakfast shifts because a hotel with seven rooms doesn’t run itself, so I simply can’t spend all my time in the kitchen. I have a team of six wonderful chefs but I still know how to cost a dish and about ingredients.” In terms of the business, Judith, who is open all year round, wishes that other businesses in the area would take a leaf out of her book. She explained, “People go for short breaks all year round these days and I think this merits earlier opening in this area. We get a huge amount of lovely Asian tourists and despite their limited vocabulary they absolutely know what they want when they visit Scotland. They tell me ‘seafood’, ‘haggis’ and, once they finish their meal, they say ‘whisky’!”

NEIL FORBES Cafe St Honore, Edinburgh

Neil opened Edinburgh’s Cafe St Honore on April Fool’s Day 2008, during the height of the financial crisis, and eleven years later it’s still going strong. Said Neil, “Looking back, this was an incredibly difficult time to open. The ‘suits’ looking for a business lunch had all but disappeared for a start, but I’d always wanted to open a restaurant with an emphasis on sustainability and cooking simple food with elegance. I think that after eleven years we’ve just about cracked it.” Neil reckons that there’s something rather unique about working in this industry, while being continually aware of how creative drives must meet the needs of the business. He explained, “There’s no other industry where you use all of you senses because it’s just so creative. You do have to be aware of the economics too of course, and as a business we are more profitable because we are more sustainable, plus how we recycle now costs us a lot less. How we buy food and train the next generation of chefs is also all hugely important to me. As winner of Best Organic restaurant in the UK last year, the impact of organic is also hugely important. We were the first restaurant in the UK to win the Soil Association’s ‘Organic served here’ accreditation.”

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