The biggest news from Mitchells Restaurant & Bar in Glasgow is that proprietor Angus Boyd is back in the kitchen. It has been three years since he's been a full-time chef but so far he's enjoying it.
Following the departure of head chef Jim Coakley last year, the position was filled by the then-sous chef, Scott Marshall. He wanted to start his own business, however, and when that fell through he decided to move away from Glasgow, leaving the 50-seat restaurant with no head chef. Boyd donned his whites and got stuck in. That was in January.
"I'm impressed that I've still got the staying power to do it," he says. "I'm enjoying it very much but my golf handicap is suffering, and all the people I've beaten on the golf course are getting their money back."
Overall, the customers have taken to the change in food styles quite well, although it took a few days for them to get used to Boyd's menu, which combines modern dishes and more classical ones.
The lunch menu includes starters of Cullen skink, a Finnan haddock-based soup (£2.50), and caramelised Marsala and red onion tartlet (£3.50). Main courses include baked shoulder of lamb with kumara potato pie made with orange sweet potato, onions, spices and sour cream, served with blanched leeks (£5.50) and chicken satay stir-fry in a bowl (£6.95). This last dish is now so popular that Boyd has to keep it on the menu all the time.
Helping Boyd in the kitchen is American sous chef Chris Bryers, who previously worked at the Epcot Centre at Walt Disney World in Florida. In the small kitchen environment, Bryers feels he has learnt more in the two months since he joined than in the preceding two years. Because of the size of the kitchen, everybody gets a chance to try everything.
To complement Bryers, Boyd is looking for a chef de partie and a commis to complete his kitchen brigade. He claims he can offer chefs at Mitchells the equivalent of a three-year apprenticeship in half the time. Ideally, he would like to have two people as keen and as switched-on as Bryers, who would run the restaurant most of the time. Boyd could then help out at busy times.
"I've had guys coming in here with 10 years' experience in the trade," he says, "but how they've got by all that time, I don't know. There's a lack of basic skills. I want someone who is genuine, because there's an acute shortage of people who really want to work in a smaller place like this instead of the glitzy restaurants."
Of the old regime of staff, the only person left besides Boyd is former restaurant manager Leisa Blackadder, who has now been promoted to general manager. Blackadder replaces George Goode, who left Mitchells last November to pursue a career in the pub industry.