Did you always know you wanted to be a chef?
Whilst I always enjoyed cooking, it was more something I fell into rather than being a childhood dream. After a couple of years, I decided to take it a little more seriously, got my head down and focussed on being the best I could be – and I’ve never really stopped since then! I’ve started and stopped a lot of things in my life but cooking has been that one constant I’ve never given up on.
How does your Scottish upbringing influence your menus?
I’ve been shaped by both my Scottish roots and my mum’s Danish heritage. I spent a lot of time in Denmark over the years, my Gran actually lives in a forest there, so I grew up around lots of interesting ways to cook – game, fishing and BBQ-ing for example.
What did you take away from your time working with Zoe & Layo Paskin in London?
It was an incredible experience working in their restaurants and using so many different flavours – from modern day Jerusalem at The Palomar to Italian influences at Evelyn’s Table. Zoe and Layo instilled in me the kind of mindset I want to create in my kitchen – how to look after your team, the drive and passion to create something a bit different – from the food you serve, the style of the restaurant and the people bringing it all together.
What factors went into designing The Spence menu?
A lot of time and effort. We wanted to make sure it was provenance-led and super seasonal. It took about 12 months to get to the version you’ll see in the restaurant. It was hugely important for us to make sure that we got the balance right, so there’s something for everyone – it’s accessible, inclusive and hits the right balance between fine dining and brasserie style food.
Describe your style of cooking…
This is the first opportunity I’ve had to build my own menu from scratch so it’s been really exciting for me to have complete control over a whole menu – from breakfast, to lunch, to dinner. In the process I’ve come to understand more about what my style of cooking is – a combination of classical, but with all the international influences I’ve been exposed to – a balance of traditional dishes but with unexpected twists, always using the best local produce available.
What are you most looking forward to at the Townhouse?
It’s very hard to create a restaurant that’s got that ‘magic’ – when all the different components come together seamlessly and the result is really special. That’s what I’m aiming for and to create this in Edinburgh will be super exciting. You know it’s working when you see diners really enjoying your food, there’s great service and everyone is having a good time – that’s why we do what we do, that’s what hospitality is, it’s about making sure people have a really good time.
What are you ambitions for The Spence?
Gleneagles has been an institution for nearly 100 years, and this is the first project outside of the Ochil Hills, so it’s a huge privilege for me to be involved in building this new chapter.
Our vision is to create a legacy restaurant, one that’s still going to be standing in 100 years from now.
We know working with Scottish produce is really important to you, how does it differ from produce from other areas in the country/world?
Scottish produce is world renowned and very sought after. From Scotch beef, to seafood and shellfish to cheese – I could go on and on! To have that at your fingertips and be able to cook with such wonderful ingredients and offer this to our guests coming through the door is a real pleasure. It’s all about celebrating simplicity and the seasons.
What do you love most about your job?
The people I work with. I really enjoy building teams and relationships with chefs, everyone knows the kitchen is a high-pressure environment so when you see people grow, develop in your team and rise up through the ranks, it’s nice to watch.
Outside of the kitchen, what does life look like for you?
My wife and I just moved up from London so we love to get out and dine in restaurants in Edinburgh. We’re both foodies which helps. We’ve recently also started taking on the challenge of wild swimming together which has been refreshing!
Give us a little sneak preview into your favourite dishes on The Spence menu…
Of course, to start one of my favourites is the Wild Mushroom Tart with Goats Curd and Hazelnuts, followed by the Whole Roasted Turbot, Fennel & Chilli and then Scotch Baba with Praline Sauce and Mascarpone – for two – to finish.