11 Foodie Questions with… Gary Maclean

One of the reasons we started Scottish Scran was to discover and highlight the depths of Scotland’s larder.

We knew the basics, but as we develop more and more recipes, we came across some amazing foodies and suppliers of food and drink that perhaps deserve some extra recognition. Or we just love their products so much we wanted to say hello to them!

We also wanted to make sure we spoke to talented chef’s as well as the producers of excellent food. They turn it into delicious creations found on tables across Scotland after all!

Where better to start than with Scotland’s national chef, the award-winning Gary Maclean. Glasgow-born Gary wears many hats – father, husband, teacher and passionate promoter of Scottish Cuisine.

Gary Maclean Scotland's Chef

What really made Gary a household name was becoming the Masterchef: The Professionals Champion in 2016 – but this is just one page in a fascinating career. What really drives him is helping to develop and mentor the next generation of young chefs at the City of Glasgow College.

It’s amazing he had the time to speak to us at all really!

Tell us who you are and what you do

Hi, my name is Gary Maclean, I am Executive Chef of the City of Glasgow College, I am also Scotland’s National Chef and previous winner of BBC’s MasterChef: The Professionals.  

How would you define Scottish cuisine in three words and why?

Quality, revered, unbeatable.  

It’s simple, I believe that we have the best larder in the world. You will find the word Scotland and Scottish on the menus of the very best restaurants all over the world.

We are very lucky that we have such amazing produce. Some of this produce comes down to geography and weather but it also comes down to the hard work of our farmers, fishermen and food producers and their passion to do things properly.  

Gary Maclean - Scotland's National Chef and Masterchef Professionals winner.

What was your favourite Scottish dish growing up, who made it and why was it your favourite?

I grew up in the ’80s, not the best time for food, however eating at home was a traditional affair, with mince and tatties, and lots of soups and stews.

Coming from a big household cooking was a real challenge for my Mum, but probably my fondest memory of my mums cooking was her poached eggs. I only remember her making them for me, she would often stay up late at night and make me them when I came home from work when I first started out at 15 working in hotels.

It took me years to get my poached eggs as good as hers.  

Tell us the story of your love of food, how did it come to be?

My passion for food started at a very young age, I was always interested in where food came from, how it worked, what makes cakes rise, and experimenting at home. 

I was the worst pupil in high school and had very little interest in most subjects. I did like history but because I was rubbish at getting the work done it made it impossible to get on.

I liked drama and my school Knightswood Secondary had a very good department, but my best subject was Home Economics and for the first time ever I went into a class that I wasn’t the worst in the school at. In fact, I was good at it. My teacher suggested I should consider becoming a chef when I left school and that’s exactly what I did and I have never looked back.

I feel extremely privileged to have found food and a career that has given me everything. I have been able to travel to every corner of the world and meet some of the most interesting and famous people of our time.

Gary Maclean - Scotland's National Chef and Masterchef Professionals winner cooking in the Masterchef kitchen.

What makes Scotland the perfect place for what you do?

I have always been a passionate Scotsman – being ginger helps! I am totally in love with the history and extremely proud of how Scottish people have impacted the rest of the world.

I am very lucky as I normally get to travel the world showcasing Scottish food and culture so in a way I get to see how people see us. It is humbling to see when you travel that people all over the world have a love and passion for all things Scottish.

I think we are very lucky that Scotland is such a strong brand and people see Scotland as part of their own heritage and family history.  

What’s the hardest part of doing what you do?

I feel blessed every day. I get the opportunity to do something I love, I get to show off Scotland’s incredible produce, I also get the chance to show young people what our industry is like. Pre Covid-19, I would say being away from home is always the toughest as sometimes I would have 15 events in a month spread over 4 or 5 countries. 

Just now the hardest thing is my job taking over the house, I am filming and cooking live a lot from my family kitchen so getting the kids to keep quiet is tough. But again there is always a silver lining as I have been able to work with my daughter Laura who, lucky for me, has just graduated film school so I have had an in house videographer, producer, sound technician and editor.   

What’s the best part of what you do? 

That’s a difficult question, but the best thing is probably the variation I have in my life, I could be on 5th Avenue doing a VIP dinner and a couple of days later I am in Primary school teaching kids how to cook. 

Gary Maclean - Scotland's National Chef and Masterchef Professionals winner with his award.

What do people assume about being a chef? Is it correct?

People have the popular misconception that all chefs are crashing pans in restaurants and hotels but there are loads of jobs that being a chef can bring – from development to industrial to huge events.

The possibilities from being a chef are endless and can change as you need them to change. 

What do people get wrong when cooking, any top tips?

I think there are a couple of things people get wrong when cooking. They do not taste their food. I also think people are a bit fearful of heat on the stove, get tasting your food and the gas turned up.

What’s next for you?

Like most people, the future is a wee bit uncertain. I am booked to go and showcase Scottish food and culture in Alaska in late June. I am at this moment and time working with the team over there plotting and planning. A bit closer to home I am working with Scottish Development International on a virtual Global Food Summit.

We are bringing Scottish producers and chefs together to basically show off our incredible food to buyers around the world. 

I am hopeful that 2021 will see an end to Covid restrictions and we can all get back to what we do best. 

Other than yourself, who or what are your favourite Scottish Chefs/products/producers?

I am a huge fan of our food producers, I am very lucky to get to meet some of them and see what they do that make their product so amazing.

It is not by accident that we have some of the best produce in the world. Some producers are in a family business that has been going for hundreds of years, bringing through knowledge and skills that makes our food amazing.

I recently spoke to a sheep farmer whose farm overlooks Loch Lomond and whose family had been on that farm since the 1750’s so there’s an incredible heritage and history. 

We have a lot of very talented chefs in Scotland and I am looking forward to the bounce back as I think it will create a lot of opportunities for people in our industry. 

Gary Maclean - Scotland's National Chef and Masterchef Professionals winner walking in the countryside.

Where can people find you?

My website can be found here, or follow along on Facebook at Chef Gary Maclean or on Twitter and Instagram.

What a fascinating insight into the life of one of Scotland’s best chefs! We’d like to thank Gary so much for taking time out of his very busy schedule to talk to us. Very inspiring to say the least.

Since we spoke to Gary it has been announced that he is to open his debut restaurant in the food at the newly refurbished Edinburgh St James Quarter.

If you visit Edinburgh be sure to visit Creel Caught, it is destined to be one of THE must-visit restaurants in the Capital. We can’t wait to go, you can find out more on their Facebook and Twitter.

Next Time…

Next time, we’re speaking to our second Scottish cheesemaker,  Lily Reade, a third-generation member of the family business that is the excellent Isle of Mull cheeses.

We learn the ins and outs of this 40 year business, life on the farm and how the beautiful Isle of Mull plays its part in the creation of some of Scotland’s best loved cheese.

Which Scottish foodie, server or producer would you like us to talk to? Let us know and we’ll drop them a line!

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