I didn’t particularly enjoy school and I wasn’t really into academic study. I always preferred doing things with my hands so, when I left school, I enrolled at my local college to do a woodwork course.
One day at college, I was walking down the corridor when I saw a cookery class taking place in a different classroom. I thought to myself, I’ll just nip in here to see what they’re doing and skip woodwork for the rest of the day. I joined in with the cooking; we made chocolate and coconut bounty bars and I was captivated straight away. My decision was made – my life as a carpenter was over and, instead, I wanted to pursue a culinary career. I still make those bounty bars now!
As a shy young boy growing up in Methil, Fife, who had no real sense of direction or ambition, I never thought to myself when I entered the classroom that day that it was about to change the course of my life and career.
After college, I took a range of culinary jobs in small kitchens and hotels in Fife, until I was given the opportunity to complete an apprenticeship in pastry at Gleneagles, under the mentorship of the revered Head Pastry Chef at the time, Ian Ironside.
It was 1989 and I was 17 years old. The pace and scale of the operation, the passion, camaraderie and excitement in the kitchen, the glamour of the hotel, the talent that was all around me blew me away. It was an awe-inspiring place for a young lad like me to find himself and in so many ways a magical experience. The formative years of any young person’s life can be a bit of a lottery, in that it could be very easy to go down the wrong route or make daft decisions, but my apprenticeship at Gleneagles gave me role models to look up to, mentors to learn from, aspirations to fulfil, and a sense of discipline, structure and commitment that kept me grounded and have helped to shape my entire career.