Clare Coghill

In a Nutshell, Chef Clare Coghill: ‘I don’t read recipe books, I lose patience following other people’s written recipes’

Clare Coghill from Café Cùil on the Isle of Skye tell us why Louis Theroux would be the ideal dinner guest, why she can’t stand music in professional kitchens and being a classical singer. 


What’s the closest thing you have to a signature dish: 

Our beef brisket rarebit. We slow cook local beef brisket in Skye Ale for six hours, and serve it up with Orkney cheddar rarebit, topped with a poached egg and onion jam. It’s the only dish we have never taken off the menu – and for good reason! 

Describe your style of cuisine in ten words: 

Scottish, seasonal and sustainable – a playful take on food.

Best and/or most memorable meal you’ve ever eaten: 

It’s got to be the taster menu at Geranium in Copenhagen. We ate 21 courses and each was better than the other, it was unforgettable. 

Worst/weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten: 

I tried alligator meat in Uganda when I was 16 years old. Safe to say I haven’t come across it since and thank god for that! 

Worst thing you’ve ever cooked: 

I had to cook a ‘dish from my country’ when I was on a university exchange in Auckland, NZ. After scanning the shops across the city for a resemblance of haggis, I eventually found some that came in a tin. It looked and tasted like dog food. Not the best example of Scottish cuisine demonstrated to my peers that day.

What’s the dish that you’re most proud of having cooked: 

My crab and whisky bisque that got scored 10/10 by the judges on My Kitchen Rules on Channel 4. 

Favourite ingredient.


Your go-to recipe book: 

It’s time to finally admit that I’ve never been a recipe book reader. I get inspired by eating at restaurants and travelling, but I tend to lose patience following other people’s written recipes. 

What other country’s cuisine really excites and intrigues you?: 

My travels through Japan and Mexico were the most culinary inspiring. 

Most you’ve ever paid for a meal: 

Geranium, Copenhagen. £500 per head. Worth every penny though!

Your favourite Scottish chef: 

Scott Smith at Fhior in Edinburgh. His knowledge of food is inspiring and he is a great person to work with. 

Favourite chef outside Scotland: 

Tom Kerridge. I love his food and admire his take on accessible ingredients for people of all abilities to try and cook. 

Who taught you to cook or ignited your passion for food as a youngster: 

My mum taught me how to cook. She was a chef at our family hotel, and I admired her sense of creativity and ability to shine in a male dominated environment. 

Most important lesson a young chef can learn: 

Keep a curious attitude to learning new things, write down recipes you learn and always be punctual. 

Culinary mentor – the most important person in your development as a professional chef: 

Jen Weiss, owner of Lighthaus in Walthamstow, London. She took a chance on me and gave me my first professional kitchen job when I had no experience.

Best thing about the industry: 

The creativity, and delicious produce to work with on Skye. 

Worst thing about the industry: 

The long hours and lower back pain. 

What’s the biggest sin a chef can commit: 

Leaving a task or job for the person the next day instead of doing it yourself. You should always leave the kitchen as clean as you find it. 

What do you eat when you’re at home: 

Mostly vegan or vegetarian food. I try to eat as clean as possible when I’m at home. I love cooking with locally sourced meat, fish, and Scottish dairy, but I try to keep it to a minimum at home. Balance and all that. 

Celebrity guest or your perfect dinner party – who would you most like to cook for: 

I’d love to cook for Louis Theroux, because he would make excellent conversation while I prepared dinner.

Tell me a something about you that virtually no-one knows: 

I am a classically trained singer and have performed in Cathedrals in Vienna during my teenage years. I gave it up when I went to university but still take private lessons as a hobby.

What’s your favourite wine? 

I love orange wines and anything with a bit of a funk to it. Gran Cerdo is my current favourite.

Your spirit of choice? 

It’s got to be Isle of Raasay Gin, I use it in a lot of my cooking too.

Do you play music in the kitchen and, if so, what’s your go-to track or artist: 

Absolutely not. I find loud music in professional kitchen environments too distracting. And I can’t be bothered with my team arguing over which artist they want played. 

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be? 

I worked in TV for a few years before I went into cooking, so maybe something media related. 


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