Around nine months ago now, I left my position as Chef Director at my first restaurant collaboration with the MacDonald Hotel in Edinburgh; The Bistro Deluxe by Paul Tamburrini. My time here was incredible but I decided to take a six-month culinary sabbatical with an aim to learn about different styles and trends – which I truly did! My sabbatical was perhaps the most exciting time of my career to date as I was able to travel and met with various chefs – eat amazing food and absorb as much knowledge as I possibly could.
I spent October working with Decimo, a cutting-edge restaurant o the 10th (or decimo) floor of the remarkable Standard Hotel in London. I worked on their launch with Michelin-starred chef, Peter Sanchez-Iglesias who has merged Spanish and Mexican cuisines to create a progressive and exciting menu. This experience was eye opening and taught me the acute attention to detail required for the preparation of a fusion menu. Then, I was lucky enough to then spend January in Dubai helping to plan the opening of a new Scottish restaurant. These experiences were highlights of an amazing all-round experience.
However, this work on my sabbatical was accumulating to one thing – launching my own restaurant! When I wasn’t working with amazing chefs, I spent months searching for the perfect location to open my own restaurant. Once our location had been settled and the plans were coming to fruition lockdown happened and everything got put on hold. This was so incredibly frustrating to me as it is such an exciting project I’ve been waiting to share for so long. However, I recognise in many ways I was lucky, I didn’t have any staff relying on me, I didn’t have to place anyone on furlough as it was just me who was working! Nevertheless, the whole situation is incredibly disappointing!
I was hoping by now to be in the exciting initial opening of my restaurant but instead we’ve all found ourselves amidst these unprecedented times!
Other than walking my dog, like most chefs, I’ve been doing a lot of cooking. Often, staying positive is easier said than done but this time has allowed me to really get back in the kitchen and cook for myself and my family – which they are loving! Spending all my time cooking with no pressure has been a wonderful experience and I know it is already enhancing my menu for my new restaurant.
A highlight for me has been getting my kids to help around the kitchen; getting them interested in cooking, interested in flavours and interested in creating their own recipes. My girls are 15 and 12 so they are usually causing havoc and there’s always something crazy going on in our house but having this time to share my passion with them. Watching them develop their own knowledge and skills in the kitchen has been amazing and incredibly rewarding to me – who knows, I might even get them in the restaurant kitchen when we open!
Cooking with my kids let me to think about all the people out there who don’t cook and how this is the perfect time to give it a go. Whether people haven’t ever cooked a three-course meal, or they just don’t enjoy the process I decided I wanted to help and create simple but delicious recipes for people to try at home. I know lockdown can be hard and people feel pressured to learn something new, so I’m not trying to be preachy, but just trying to share my love for food. Cooking can be incredibly therapeutic if you nail the basics – and the fact you can eat what you’ve cooked makes it the best hobby in the world! I’ve been working with the Glasgow Herald and providing a three course, family style, meal every week for a family to enjoy. They’ve allowed me to be completely creative with my recipes which has kept my head in the game and am constantly thinking up new ways to share my passion. It’s been a completely new experience creating everything myself – even taking my own photos! I must say, photography is not my forte, so my kids have shared their skills with me too.
Additionally, I’ve also discovered my green fingers which I didn’t know I possessed. This has been a really fun new venture to me and is providing me with new ingredients and recipes for my cooking. I’ve never grown my own food before, so I’ve started off basic with herbs and tomato plants, but it has been very satisfying watching them grow. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed incorporating my home-grown herbs into my cooking – there is something special about eating something you’ve grown yourself and I like to think you can taste the difference! I’m excited to expand my own greenhouse and incorporate it all into my menu.
Like many others, I initially found lockdown to be incredibly difficult. I knew we were so close to opening up my dream restaurant project and I was gutted that the plans were being put on hold. However, I’ve realised we’re all in the same boat and I’m in a more fortunate position than most. I love taking the time to cook and create for my family and we’re certainly eating well.
Although it’s difficult to plan ahead just now it’s hard not to think about future plans. Everything is so uncertain just now, especially in the hospitality industry, so I’ve not been able to make any solid plans for the restaurant opening. I’m in an awkward limbo with my restaurant not being open yet so there is not too much I can do other than keep cooking! I hope that when things ease off I can stat back where I left of and hope my restaurant will be open soon after. In the meantime, I’m cooking daily and trying to use this time to be as creative as I can.