I first worked as a cook in London restaurants during my late teens. I remember the excitement in the kitchen as special ingredients were shipped in from around the world: soft perfect mozzarella fresh from Naples, a leg of delicious
intensely nutty-flavored Jamón ibérico from Spain, plump ripe
fleshy figs from the south of France. There would be a buzz in
the kitchen as we gathered round to prize open crates or delve
into bags, and then an almost reverential silence as we took out
and made our bounty ready for use.
Achieving the excitement, joy and satisfaction of working with
incredible produce is a top priority for chefs. This is part of the
reason I so love my work as an international private chef, but
now I am the one being shipped out to my ingredients.
My jobs can take me all over the world. Every area will have its
culinary gems and it’s part of my job to find out what they are,
track them down, and bring them back to serve for my clients’
Depending on the event and location, which could be a formal
dinner party in a swanky Mayfair house, cooking for a family in
a remote castle in the wilds of Scotland, or a luncheon at a villa
tucked into the hills of Ibiza, there are various tricks, methods
and skills I have perfected over the years to make sure I don’t
miss any local culinary treasure. There are challenges that
varying environments and clients can present, and I have learned
how to provide my clients with the very best of whatever foods
are available, wherever we may be.
Shooting parties in The Highlands of Scotland
In the colder winter months I am often asked to cook for
pheasant, partridge or grouse shoots in the wildly beautiful
but very rural parts of Scotland. Guests generally stay in the
grand fire-lit, tartan-draped lodges or, if they are lucky, in the
wonderfully ancient Scottish castles. But just because they are
seemingly in the middle of nowhere, it does not mean they want
anything less than top-notch food.
Because of the castles’ remote locations, there is no such thing
as ‘popping to the shops.’ Journey times to large markets there
can easily take at least one hour, so stocking up in bulk is a
must. With food preferences and intolerances, even in the hardy
shooting set, it is always worth having a supply of gluten-free
products and alternative milks like almond or rice, in case they
are required. An initial trip to a big supermarket shop, although
very unromantic, is the best way to initially stock the cupboards.
There is usually plenty of storage space in old buildings and, as
the weather in Scotland is often rather chilly, the great outdoors
can serve as extra fridge space when needed!
Menus, of course, have to be dictated by available ingredients,
which will usually mean European-style dishes; there is not
a great daily demand in these areas for more exotic foods.
However over the last few years even local village shops have
begun to stock a wider range of produce, including international
foods like tahini and quinoa. I still have to ship in specialty items
like extravagant chocolates, fine wines, and health food products
like teff seeds.
Despite what can feel like a lack of food choices compared to
major cities, just outside the kitchen door, when the season is
right, rural Scotland has the most incredible wild larder. Having
a good relationship with local game keepers and their gillies
(aides to the stalkers or fishers) is important in order to get hold
of the extraordinary wild salmon, chanterelles, langoustines,
grouse, pheasant, venison, partridge and various other foods that
can be found on and in the moors, hills, coast and rivers of the