THE eighth annual Scottish Hotel Awards, fondly known as Scotland’s hotel Oscars, took place last week at a glittering ceremony in Glasgow.
One of the main winners was 37-year-old Gary Goldie, chef de cuisine at the Ardanaiseig Hotel in Argyll, who was named Scotland’s Chef of the Year.
Gary, who previously worked in hotels in Ballater and Tomintoul, has spent the last 13 years at Ardanaiseig, honing his skills to become a world-class chef with an international reputation for excellence.
A former Medaille d’Or winner, and the recent recipient of a third AA rosette, Gary said: “Cooking is my passion. I think about ingredients and menus almost every minute of the day.
“When I am not in the kitchen, I am foraging for fresh ingredients or travelling to some of the best restaurants in the world.
“Although I often use international techniques in my cooking, I believe strongly in using fresh local ingredients wherever possible.
“Scotland’s countryside has so much great food to offer and I never tire of what’s out there and experimenting with how it can be prepared.”
Gary’s career began at 16 when he started working at the Hospitality Inn with Joe Queen in his home town of Irvine, and says his biggest inspiration is Marco Pierre White.
“Growing up in the kitchens when I did, he changed everything, including what we wore,” said Gary.
“Of course, it wasn’t just the butcher’s aprons – Marco was the one who made Michelin stars so important to us all.”
Two chefs at a luxury Highland retreat also picked up the award for best kitchen team.
But it’s no surprise they are taking the culinary world by storm, as between them they have trained with some of the UK’s most famous chefs.
Ross Fraser and Craig Munro, head chef and sous chef at the five-star Loch Ness Lodge at Brachla, just south of Inverness, have created fine dining dishes which have put the destination firmly on the UK gastronomic map.
Ross, 31, grew up in the Highlands with a love of cooking inherited from his father, a chef and lecturer .
Despite stints working with such luminaries as Marco Pierre White and Jean-Christophe Novelli in London, and cooking with some of Australia’s most famous chefs Down Under, it was always his intention to head up a restaurant on home turf.
It’s the expertise he picked up while working in London which he is keen to showcase at Loch Ness Lodge.
He said: “The emphasis is on providing seasonal dishes using the freshest local produce available – straight from the shore or mushrooms foraged from the grounds.
“It’s true I’ve learned some amazing things from working in some of London’s top restaurants, but the biggest lesson I learned is that you have to give the customer what they want.
“I’m not sure dishes like parsnip ice cream or snail porridge have much of a demand up here, while a good steak cooked to perfection is still the most popular dish on most menus.”
Ross left school at 15 to become a chef at Skibo Castle, and while there won the Young Highland Chef of the Year contest. The prize included work experience at the Four Seasons in London, where he so impressed the chef, he was offered a full-time job.
Sous chef, Craig Munro, 25 said: “I began my training at Culloden House Hotel in Inverness, and while working there I applied for and was accepted into the Scottish culinary team in the Culinary Olympics.”
He then worked with Angela Hartnett, Gordon Ramsay’s protege, at the renowned Connaught Hotel in London.
Scott Sutherland, owner of the Loch Ness Lodge, said: “We are delighted to have such an exciting and talented young chef on board. Craig is enjoying working under Ross’s leadership and making a considerable contribution to our fine-dining experience at Loch Ness Lodge.
“The two of them work brilliantly together – they truly are a magnificent team.
“There’s never any histrionics or yelling and shouting – the two of them are cool, calm and collected and are a true dream team.”