Graham Mitchell is one of the north-east’s most highly renowned chefs.
He has won a wide range of culinary awards during his career and was part of the team that opened the five-star Chester Hotel in Aberdeen after spending 3 years as a sous chef at Moonfish Cafe.
Graham, from Aberdeen, currently works full-time as the head chef of The Scullery kitchen at the Newmachar Hotel and Tarragon Catering is his side project, which he has been running since the beginning of lockdown in March 2020.
Originally intended to offer a quality dine-at-home service while restaurants closed due to lockdown restrictions, Graham has now adapted his services to cater for a wide range of special events and chef-at-home dinners.
He utilises local produce available throughout the Grampian region in his dishes and his business’s popularity has remained strong over the last two years.
We spoke to Graham to find out more about Tarragon Catering.
When did you first realise you had a talent for cooking? Any memories from when you were young?
When I was a kid, I remember being at my auntie’s and grandparents a lot while my mum and dad were out at work. My granny was always making her Scotch broth and my auntie was always baking things. I did a lot of baking and home cooking in the kitchen with them while I was growing up.
I never really looked towards cooking again until I got to secondary school and started doing home economics. But I remember when Gordon Ramsay came on the TV with Boiling Point in the late 1990s, seeing him screaming, shouting, throwing pans about, I was like ‘wow, that looks pretty awesome!’
Where did you find your first professional cooking opportunity?
I first got put into the Marriott Hotel at Dyce for a week’s work experience when I was 15-years-old. Since then, I haven’t looked back. I was doing odd jobs like cooking, tasting and prepping – it made me think that I could probably do this.
After the work experience, they actually offered me a job as soon as I turned 16. But I had a bit of time to wait before I reached that age. So, my dad managed to find me a job as a kitchen porter at the Cloverleaf Hotel in Bucksburn.
Once you get into a professional kitchen, it grabs hold of you with both hands. You just start really getting into the fast-paced environment and before you know it, you’re evolving on to lots of different jobs.
What’s been some of the main highlights from your cooking career so far?
I was Scotland’s first surf and turf chef of the year. I’ve won Scottish beef chef of the year, I also got gold for the north-east seafood chef of the year.
At the last north-east of Scotland food awards in 2019, we won a handful of awards with the Newmachar Hotel. I won the beef chef award and my sous chef was runner-up for the pastry chef award. That was quite a good night. I think we walked away with five awards in total from the night.
What made you want to start Tarragon Catering?
It was lockdown that inspired it 100%. Everyone was stuck in the house and missing the buzz of going out to restaurants. I saw a few other chefs that adapted to doing dine-at-home options during this time. But to be honest, I wasn’t impressed with the portion sizes or the quality of the food that was being given as part of their offerings. I felt like I could do it better myself, and for a cheaper price. So, that’s when I started doing it.
When did it first start and how has the journey been so far?
I started Tarragon Catering at the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020. It’s been a fun journey so far. Through lockdown, it was busy the majority of times. I created monthly menus where everything comes pre-cooked, ready to reheat and plate up with easy-to-follow step-by-step guides.
But as the restrictions eased and I returned to my full-time job at the Newmachar Hotel, I’ve now started doing it part-time and on special occasions for people and actually doing chef at home events for birthdays, anniversaries or other types of special occasions. For preparing food selections, I usually start with a price per head for the customer then write a menu according to any required specifications.
Some of the most popular dishes I offer would be cider braised ham hock terrine with piccalilli, apple vanilla puree and crackling, sous vide cornfed chicken supreme and Barra farm strawberry cheesecake with caramelised white chocolate, macerated berries and basil gel. People can contact me on my Facebook page or email me through my website to make enquiries.
Where do you source your ingredients?
Also working as head chef at The Scullery kitchen in the Newmachar Hotel, for Tarragon Catering, I source my ingredients from my current suppliers at the hotel as they are all local businesses offering a great selection of fresh produce and ingredients.
How do you spend your time away from the kitchen?
I’ve got five kids. Three stepchildren and two daughters of my own, aged from 21 to two-years-old – we’re flat out with all of them! I’m also a keen Aberdeen fan. In my time off, I’m hardly ever really away from the kitchen. I do a lot of work with the Springboard Charity doing cooking with children. I’m the Scottish culinary team manager, so I organise a lot of things for this as well. Our next event is the culinary world cup in November. This is pretty much all I do on my few days off each week!
What do you usually cook for you and your family at home?
I’m a big fan of cooking fish at home and my kids love it. I like cooking different things at home, getting my kids to try it and educate them about lots of different foods and flavours that are available on our doorstep.
Have you cooked for any famous faces over the years?
A few! I cooked for the treble winning Manchester United team. I’ve cooked for Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel and WWE wrestlers.