A head chef from Moray is the first solo female chef to have received a Michelin star in Scotland for 20 years.
Forres native Lorna McNee is celebrating having gained her first Michelin star.
Head chef at Glasgow’s Cail Bruich, the 33-year-old secured the accolade for the city – the first restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star in Glasgow in 18 years.
She is also the first solo female Scottish chef to have gained the accolade in 20 years.
The news was announced at a virtual ceremony on Monday evening, hosted by Davina McCall, where the newcomers for the Michelin Guide 2021 were announced.
A former Moray College student, Lorna started her career as an apprentice at Andrew Fairlie’s Michelin-starred restaurant at Gleneagles where she worked her way up the ranks to sous chef.
Then last year she took up the head chef position at three AA Rosettes restaurant Cail Bruich in August during the coronavirus pandemic and has since redeveloped the eatery’s offering and launched takeaway and delivery services.
Throughout her career, Lorna has also competed in BBC TV series Great British Menu and was named “Champion of Champions” in 2019 and has enjoyed many award wins.
— Great British Menu (@GBMofficial) January 25, 2021
Her Michelin achievement is “a dream come true” and is a positive memory of the current pandemic which has been a huge toll on hospitality over the past 10 months with constant changes in rules and restrictions hurting the industry.
She said: “It is amazing. I genuinely can’t express in words how good it is – it’s a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to be able to achieve it but actually getting it had been amazing.
“It has been really difficult. More so because it was a team of new chefs I was coming in to work with, well I have worked with one before, to try and get to understand how they feel, work and who they are as chefs.
“To come in and create my own food wasn’t really an issue – I knew what I wanted to do, I knew what kind of food I wanted to create. It was more just getting to know everyone and learning a new kitchen. the whole stop, start, stop, start during the pandemic has been challenging, but it has been pretty mental.
“We launched a takeaway and delivery and we were doing it every weekend but we’ve found it was more popular if we offered it on special occasions like Christmas, Hogmanay, Burns and Valentine’s.
“The at home thing is popular and we’ve had a lot of people supporting us. We want to be able to come out of this and still have a great restaurant at the end when we can reopen.”
Bagging her first star
Opened in 2008 by brothers Chris and Paul Charalambous, Lorna says the key to securing a Michelin star is consistency.
With it marked as one of the most prestigious food and drink accolades any restaurant can receive, she is delighted with the outcome of this year’s awards and says it is something she hadn’t expected to achieve in such a short period of time.
She added: “Anything to do with Michelin, the main thing is consistency. You have to consistently make sure your food is at a good level. During a pandemic that has been difficult as even things like getting the best suppliers, we want to support them but they are struggling, too, so we’ve had to use some new suppliers.
“To get the Michelin star, it has just been a case of when we have been open, every day everything is always good. I come from working at a two Michelin star restaurant so I have that instilled in me; if it’s not good, then you don’t serve it.
“The level I work is the level I work. I’ve always wanted a star and I’ve known what I need to do to get it. But to get it in such a short period of time has been phenomenal. It’s not something I thought would happen this year so I’m really, really chuffed.
“We’ve achieved this level so I want to make sure it is even better than the previous day when we reopen. We have to meet everyone’s expectations – nothing will change regarding that – but we need to make sure when they come they get what they expect and more.
“What is the point in standing still? I’m someone who likes a challenge and driving myself. I’m not saying next year we want to get two stars, I want us to keep our one star level but push and drive ourselves to create different dishes, be better chefs and be more inspirational. We’re always trying to be one better than yesterday.”