Under the Grill: Lewis Lane

Offering breathtaking coastal views and overlooking the iconic Bass Rock in the Firth of Forth, DRIFT in North Berwick recently welcomed Chef Lewis Lane, one of Scotland's burgeoning culinary talents. After several stints at prestigious hotels and restaurants across Scotland such as Timberyard, Borthwick Castle, and Paul Kitching's 21212, Lewis has extensive experience within the hospitality industry. Lewis has expertly crafted a Scandinavian-inspired menu with a twist at DRIFT, utilising the freshest Scottish produce with a focus on land and sea in homage to the cafe's enviable coastal location. This new Scandi-twist sets them apart from any other establishments in the local area. Lewis joins us this week for Under the Grill to give us a taste of his most memorable meals, favourite kitchen tools, and the best Scottish produce.

What is your most memorable meal?

I think eating at 21212 was my most memorable meal when I was about 20/21 years old. Every dish that was placed in front of me looked so alien to me. I mean, I had no clue by looking what each dish was! It was only when you started to eat it that everything made sense. The food was just so playful and fun.

What is your favourite kitchen tool/gadget?

At the risk of sounding cliché, I have got to say my knife. It is one of the only pieces of equipment that is a true extension and reflection of a chef’s personal skill. The whole process from forging the knife, to sharpening the knife, to a skilled chef using the knife and creating amazing food is absolute mastery. An art form from start to finish throughout the whole process and one that I find really cool. There is definitely a kind of bond between a chef and his knife.

What ingredient could you not live without?

Sea Salt, without a doubt. I use it in almost everything. I even have a pinch in our Lemon & Goats Curd Cheesecake. In-fact, I would be hard pushed to find an element on the entire menu that doesn’t at least have a small pinch to liven it up. If you know how to use it correctly it is definitely your friend.

If you could cook a meal for anyone (dead or alive), who would it be and what would you make?

I think for any chef, cooking for your harshest critics and winning them over is a dream come true. My kids are my harshest critics. If I could cook for them and make them both happy with the same meal, at the same time I could hang up my apron for good. Mission accomplished! Fortunately (or unfortunately) whichever way you look at it I think I will be cooking for a very long time to come.

What inspired the dishes on your menu for DRIFT?

Easy. Scottish produce. I firmly believe that Scotland is home to some of the best produce in the world. I had a great larder to work with from the start but what really inspired me was definitely my surroundings. I was really lucky to use the restaurant before the re-launch in DRIFT as my office while I was writing the menu. The scenery of our local coastline from our panoramic windows would inspire anyone.

Do you have a favourite dish from this menu? Which one would you recommend?

For me it would have to be our Harris Gin Cured Salmon with Whipped Goats Curd, Pickled Cucumber, Whipped Goats Curd and Rye & Caraway Bread. It is just so fresh and vibrant and is a great nod to our coastal location. I can’t think of anything better to eat while enjoying our views out to Bass Rock and Quarrel Sands.

What is your favourite Scottish produce?

To be honest it changes all the time. I could be absolutely obsessed by something for a few weeks and then I will get bored and move onto the next thing. At the moment my food love would have to be crowdie cheese. We are doing a crowdie whipped with cream cheese on our Smorgasbord at the moment and it is out of this world! I actually can’t see me getting bored of crowdie anytime soon!

What Scottish produce/dish is most underrated?

This is a difficult one for a Scotsman to answer - I’m going to try my best not to say haggis! There are so many great products of Scotland. I think I would like to use more venison and seasonal game. I just don’t see it on menus as much as it should be. However, I wouldn’t be ashamed to say deep-fried Mars bars are a real treat now and again!

Are there any foods you just don’t like?

Oysters. I have tried so hard to like them but it is just not meant to be. I have grown to understand and appreciate them and I will eat them if they pop up on a tasting menu for instance, but they are just not my thing. My absolute food enemy though has got to be mayonnaise! Homemade is absolutely delicious and we use it in our celeriac slaw but there is a reason why the family favourite shop bought stuff begins with hell…

What is the most challenging ingredient to work with?

I think ingredients are only challenging if you don’t know what to do with them. Once you know, it’s easy. I’ve never stuffed a pig’s trotter for instance. It would be a challenge, but I would work it out. On the menu at the moment there is nothing we could really call challenging. We are just doing simple, honest cooking.

If you could give one piece of advice to a home chef, what would it be?

Read, read, and read some more! Cook, cook and cook more! Nowadays a home cook has all the same information to learn from that any professional chef has due to books, the internet and especially YouTube. Just enjoy the food journey!

What meal would you choose as your last supper?

Something simple and hearty. Maybe a great lasagne or a steak pie. I am definitely not fussy out of the kitchen.

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