Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

How Jack Duncan became head chef of The Fife Arms Hotel in Turriff – and he’s only 19

Jack Duncan. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson
Jack Duncan. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Passion, drive, and creativity are three attributes of Jack Duncan. What do you get when you marry them with the 19-year-old’s ability to create stellar dishes? A thriving force in the north-east cooking scene.

It isn’t often you come across a teenage head chef that runs a six-strong kitchen team. In fact, Jack, who resides near Turriff in Aberdeen, is the only one I am aware of.

The pressure that comes with such a position is something I could only imagine. The long unsociable hours, physically demanding tasks, and working in a stressful setting.

A seafood platter made by Jack. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

But Jack would take all of this to continue doing what he loves most – cooking. And this was something he made very clear to me when I paid him a visit at The Fife Arms Hotel in Turriff.

Working up the ladder

It all started at The White Heather, a fellow Turriff-based restaurant and hotel, where Jack began washing dishes at the age of 13 before trying his hand at creating desserts.

He was just 14 and a pupil at Turriff Academy at this point.

“This is where I did work experience, got my health and hygiene certificates, and realised I enjoyed cooking,” says Jack.

Jack has worked at The Fife Arms Hotel for three years. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

“I got roped into helping out with desserts and did this for six months before working on the larder section – plating up, making salads, etc. Then I decided to leave school and work there full-time.

“After a year, I was the only one in the kitchen. I was there for three-and-a-half years.”

I queried if Jack learned the ins and outs of cooking at college. He responded: “I had to go to college for six weeks because, at the time, I was too young to leave school.

“It wasn’t for me, I didn’t learn anything. I was already getting hands-on experience in a kitchen.”

The Fife Arms Hotel

The next part of his journey saw the then-16-year-old chef learn the ropes in The Fife Arms Hotel kitchen. He has remained here ever since.

Jack said: “I decided it was time to move on, open up and see different styles of cooking, so I came here just before lockdown.

Inside the restaurant. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

“Then we went into lockdown, so the team and I worked on things in the background ready to reopen – doing takeaways. I really got the hang of it.

“I started off on the larder section again doing salads and starters, and then I got onto sauce cooking and making main courses.”

When there was a recent opening for a head chef position at the venue, Jack took on the role. “It is stressful at times,” he says.

“It is very stressful at the weekends – you’re just wondering if you’re going to have enough food. We try to keep all the customers happy and cater to everybody.”

A range of dishes you can expect at The Fife Arms Hotel. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

Jack, the youngest in the kitchen team, is joined by two commis chefs, a junior chef de partie, a junior sous chef and a breakfast chef.

“It’s a young team with young and modern ideas,” he added. “We all learn from each other. They teach me things while I teach them things, it’s a great team.

“Instead of doing the same as everyone else we’re trying to think outside the box and bring our own ideas to the table.

“A lot of people say ‘oh, that’s quite a risky move to take doing that dish’, but then it pays off when they taste it.”

Eclectic menu

There is something for everyone on the menu – ranging from tapas to seafood-based dishes and Italian plates to decadent desserts.

Past and present desserts include a peach Bellini posset, pistachio and rose panna cotta tart, white chocolate pavlova, and lemon parfait. Jack showcases his creations on social media.

The team takes inspiration from, again, social media, offerings in London, and different cultures for their dishes.

‘It was so surreal’

Jack is often highly praised for his talent on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

In addition, he was named runner-up for the Young Chef of the Year Award at the North East of Scotland Chef and Restaurant of the Year Competition in October.

Jack had to cook three courses in a timed kitchen. He made a scallop starter, venison main, and wild berry parfait dessert.

“I wanted to make dishes that we offer here at the hotel,” Jack said. “We do a lot of seafood and game so I wanted to bring that into the competition.

“The challenge was really tough. When my name was called out, it was so surreal.

“Even now, people are still coming and saying ‘is the chef that came second in the awards still working here?’

“It’s a buzz to hear that. Getting the love back for my food that I’ve put my love into is so rewarding.”

The exterior. Image: Jason Hedges/DC Thomson

A fine-dining food van on the cards

Jack admits he has a great support system in his family, friends, and the team at The Fife Arms Hotel.

His main career aspiration is to open his own restaurant, cafe, or food van – selling modern, fine-dining food – one day.

However, in the meantime, he says he is “living every day as it comes”.

“I’ll be putting my all into every day and trying my hardest to think of new dishes to give the customers the best experience when they come to the Fife.”

To view more dishes made by Jack, visit