City of Glasgow College lecturer, Scotland's National Chef, Chef Patron, and winner of MasterChef the Professionals 2016, Gary Maclean joins me this week for Under the Grill. I spoke to him about his most memorable meals, his Norwegian MasterChef experience at Maaemo in Oslo, and his favourite pieces of Scottish produce.
What is your most memorable meal?
My most memorable meal was from over 20 years ago. I was on a culinary tour of Italy and we arrived very late into our accommodation in Parma, we were too late to go into town for food. We were staying at an old monastery and it had no restaurant. The care taker who checked us in said that he would sort us with something. We all expected some sandwiches, but we were treated to a spectacular meal, homemade ravioli, amazing cheese and charcuterie and the most incredible red wine from the monastery.
What is your favourite kitchen tool/gadget?
I'm not into gadgets too much, too many people buy gadgets and don’t use them. If pushed, for me it has to be my Thermomix, it’s a really high tech blender that can also cook whatever is in the bowl.
What ingredient could you not live without?
The ingredient I couldn’t work without and I feel is essential would be salt - so critical in cooking.
If you could cook a meal for anyone (dead or alive), who would it be and what would you make?
The person I would have loved to have met and cooked for would be Stan Laurel from Laurel and Hardy fame. Stan spent a lot of his youth in Glasgow and went on to become one of the most famous people in the world. I would probably cook him something from his youth, brown shrimps I'm sure would have been plentiful when he was a kid.
What dish from your time on MasterChef the Professionals challenged you the most and are you most proud of?
I think my first dish on the show was my most difficult dish I have ever cooked in my life. I did Rabbit nose to tail, cooking it in about ten different ways. It was very risky as rabbit is very difficult to get right. I knew the judges would also think it was risky. This is one of the few dishes I had the opportunity to practice and I took full advantage of this and I did fifteen full timed run thoughts for the one dish. Incidentally I have never made it since.
Your experience at Maaemo in Oslo, Norway seemed to be a real catalyst moment for you in the competition, what was it about Maeemo that was so special for you?
Maaemo was incredible, I felt a real link with the place. The whole concept was about sustainable seasonal produce only found in Norway. I instantly got to thinking if this was done in Scotland it would be amazing. The other thing was, I almost got to just forget about the competition and just experience working a 3 Michelin star restaurant, and not mess anything up! All in all, I felt at home in Maaemo.
What inspired your menu for Creel Caught?
My menu for Creel Caught is being totally dictated by what my suppliers are telling me is good, available, and more importantly sustainably sourced. We have so many amazing things on the menu from hand dived king scallops from Mull to Iain Spinks Arbroath smokies. We are looking to only use ingredients from Scotland throughout the whole menu.
What is your favourite Scottish produce?
I am really passionate about all Scottish produce. I have been lucky to have spent a lot of time over the years with a lot of our producers, farmers, and fisherfolk. It would be difficult for me to tie it down to one ingredient. I truly believe that Scotland has some of the very best food in the world. I have been able to showcase this in loads of events around the world, watching other chefs work with and appreciate our produce is a real highlight of my year.
What Scottish produce/dish is most underrated?
Scottish food is really only underrated by Scottish people. I would love to see the availability of our fish and shellfish in more shops, we need more fishmongers to bring this incredible product to the Scottish market easier.
Are there any foods you just don’t like?
My food hell is Brussel sprouts, sorry to all the Brussel sprout farmers out there but I just don’t see the attraction. I spent too much of my youth working on veg sections prepping sprouts, then watching the plates coming back to the kitchen from the dining room with all the sprouts untouched! However, in my house I am in the minority - my wife and kids love them!
What is the most challenging ingredient to work with?
For me the most challenging ingredient would be Sea Urchin. I actually had many a sleepless night before going onto MasterChef. I dreaded getting one in the skills test. I did buy some beforehand and gave it a go, but I'm not sure how successful I would have been if it came up on the show.
If you could give one piece of advice to a home chef, what would it be?
There is loads of advice, simple things like taste your food, getting a good quality knife and cutting board helps. I would also advise to take some cookery classes, most colleges offer great recreational evening classes there is also a lot really good Cook Schools around the country.
What meal would you choose as your last supper?
I have been getting asked this for years, the answer is always the same. It has to be super tasty, extravagant and special, so for me my last supper would have to be Scottish Lobster.
Gary Maclean is set to open his own restaurant, Creel Caught, in the new St James' Quarter Bonnie & Wild Marketplace. His new venture will champion the very best Scottish seafood, with signature dishes to include Lobster Thermidor Mac n' Cheese, Grilled Langoustines and Seaweed Butter, and Monkfish Scampi.