BEING A CHEF IS EXCITING, PERSONAL, CREATIVE… THERE’S NOTHING LIKE IT
I grew up in the countryside where my uncle had a small hotel next to the village. I worked there part-time washing dishes and soon discovered that I liked the atmosphere in the kitchen. Then, when one of the chefs left, the Head Chef asked me if I’d like to join the team as a Commis Chef so…
I really love the camaraderie and creativity in the kitchen – there’s nothing like it. When you create dishes, new tastes and flavour combinations or even plate designs, it’s exciting but also quite a personal thing so, when you receive great guest feedback and see them really enjoying the food you’ve created, it’s one of the most rewarding things. At The Balmoral, we go out and speak to the guests most nights, to make them feel welcome and listen to their feedback. Whether new guests or old, we really enjoy meeting them and it’s a nice experience for them too.
FAMILY, MY DAD, GAME & JEFF BLAND… MY BIGGEST INSPIRATIONS
One of my biggest passions is finding new suppliers and new ingredients. That always inspires me. I love discovering what nobody else is using or which new seasonal ingredients are available, especially when it’s to do with game. That’s been a big part of my career and my life. My Dad was a gamekeeper so anything to do with game excites me. I enjoy cooking with it, speaking to the suppliers about it, finding out if it’s going to be a good season or not. My favourite is roe deer, from the low end of Scotland. It’s slightly smaller than the red deer that most people think of so the flavour isn’t as strong and the meat is much leaner. In the kitchen, we tend to buy the whole deer and try to use as many cuts as possible but, at the moment, if I had to choose one part to use, I'm loving the liver.
In terms of people, Jeff Bland, the Executive Chef here, has been a really strong figure in my life and career. Great chef! He’s always been a good person to talk to about career directions and is very encouraging, both for me personally and the other chefs too.
I COOK… MODERN SCOTTISH CUISINE
At Number One, we try to use as many Scottish ingredients as possible but with a modern twist. For example, we often use French influences to lighten the dishes up but the heart each dish is always Scottish. The reason I say modern Scottish rather than just Scottish is because when people think of Scottish cooking they tend to think of heavy flavours and textures such as haggis, kedgeree etc. It’s difficult to use those dishes in modern cookery so you have to take little influences from them and lighten them up.
HEAD CHEF AT THE BALMORAL IS MY DREAM JOB
I’ve worked here for 10 years in total. I worked here for 5 years when I was younger and then, after taking a break to travel and learn more about cooking and the different techniques and inspirations in different kitchens, I decided to return to The Balmoral 5 years ago. I started as Sous Chef, worked my way up to Head Chef and it’s gone really well ever since. I always knew I wanted to come back because it was such an important and enjoyable part of my early career so I always kept in touch with the chefs.
The Balmoral’s the best place in Scotland so it was my dream to get the top job at Number One. To actually achieve it, there’s nothing better than that. It’s really special.
MY FAVOURITE MEMORY
It has to be when I won British Game Chef of the Year. I was the very first winner so that was quite special. Obviously, as my Dad is a gamekeeper it was quite a proud moment for me to win that. The deer that I cooked on the day was actually from him so to do everything from the start of the sourcing process to cooking it on the day was important to me.
IF YOU ONLY EAT 1 DISH AT NUMBER ONE, IT HAS TO BE…
The signature smoked salmon. It’s made using the best quality smoked salmon available, which has been specially sourced for the hotel, and cured and smoked using my own secret recipe. Plus, for that extra ‘something’, we smoke the salmon over burning chips from Tomatin whisky barrels from up north. That dish will never come of the menu as long as I’m Head Chef. It took me 2 years to perfect and it’s been worth it. For me, it’s the perfect dish – nothing to take away or add to it.
My favourite restaurant in Edinburgh is The Shore Bar & Restaurant. It’s in Leith, right next to the water. You can either sit in the bar or sit in the restaurant. I like to sit in the bar because they’ve got an open fire - it’s where the locals go and the food is really good. My favourite dish there is their ham hash cake. It’s basically ham and a breaded potato cake, topped with a soft poached egg and hollandaise, and served with salad. It’s spot on. I enjoy it every time.
Brian Grigor is the Executive Chef at Number One restaurant in Edinburgh’s The Balmoral Hotel.