MasterChef quarter-finalist and executive chef Kevin Dalgleish talks about his favourite produce to work with at The Chester Hotel in Aberdeen.
What’s your favourite March dish?
March is one of those months where the winter produce is finishing and it’s still not quite hot enough for spring. But there is still a lot of duck going around, the beef is always really good, and shellfish starts to get a bit more plentiful. Roe deer is probably the best for March though. At The Chester we put it with a beetroot purée and artichokes – earthy flavours are great with roe deer.
What kind of food don’t you like?
The roes on scallops – a lot of people like to dry them out and make them into a powder, but I don’t like the texture of them. They’re full of tiny eggs – I just don’t like it. I’ve seen some restaurants serve them and I just wonder why! Some chefs think you’ve got to use everything and not waste anything, but I’d rather put them in the bin!
What’s your star ingredient?
Our biggest seller is scallops. We get through about 300 a week at The Chester. We buy them direct from Orkney and the west coast, depending on their availability – they’re so weather dependent. We buy the hand-dived scallops. With dredged ones, it’s like hoovering up the seabed – it takes years for any life to grow back afterwards. The hand-dived ones keep replenishing themselves. They’re cleaner and better for the environment.
Where’s a good spot for foraging in the north east?
There are some fantastic mushrooms in Banchory like chanterelles. Even up towards the Cairngorms there are hotspots for mushrooms. One of my colleagues goes up in autumn, takes the weekend off and gets 50kg of mushrooms and gets a couple of thousand pounds for it. So there’s some big money to be made from foraging! But you need to know what you’re looking for – with mushrooms you could be high as a kite for a week if you’re not careful!
What local produce do you use?
We are blessed in Aberdeenshire – we’ve got fish markets just up the road so we have cod, John Dory and bass as our mainstays. Inland we get fantastic beef from Aberdeenshire Highland Beef in Banchory. I tend to get a rib roast from there and roast it on a Sunday when I’m at home. We try and keep it as local as we can. I’d say about 90% of the produce we use in the hotel is from Scotland. The biggest battle for us is trying to get hold of the best produce. Usually the best produce is exported, so it’s trying to keep some of that in this country.
Who’s your favourite celebrity chef?
Phil Howard. He used to have The Square restaurant in London. He uses a similar style to what we do at The Chester. His flavours are natural and classic. He’s at the top of his game and I really look up to him. I was lucky enough to have him come up to Ackergill Tower when I was working there – he did a weekend there with me. He’s one of the judges on the Great British Menu now and he’s a very calm and collected guy.
What’s been your biggest kitchen disaster?
We had a lunch at The Savoy for 250 people and my job was to prepare about 800 baby carrots. I had them all ready, they were in the blast chiller. I got one of the other guys to make sure everything had been moved into the fridge before service, but he’d left some of them in the blast chiller. Halfway through service we realised we didn’t have enough carrots. We must have had about 15 chefs turning carrots around and cooking them to order. We only realised at the end of the night they were in the blast chiller all along. Now I always count my ingredients, double count and get someone else to count as well before service!