Sous chef Lorna McNee from the two-Michelin-starred Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at the Gleneagles hotel in Perthshire has been named Scottish Chef of the Year 2017.
She was awarded the title, sponsored by Brakes Scotland, after a live-cook off at the annual ScotHot exhibition at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow yesterday (16 March). She is the second female to win the title and succeeds last year’s winner, Adam Handling.
Talking to The Caterer, she said: “It’s a great competition for me to win and I’m very, very proud.”
Each chef had three and a half hours to present a four-course meal for four covers to a panel of industry judges. Her dishes included a starter of roast veal sweetbread with mushroom tart and onion puree; turbot meuniere; a main of roast squab, confit leg and creamed sprouts; and a citrus millefeuille dessert.
“I practised my dishes a lot, I got feedback off everyone at work, it wasn’t just chef Andrew but the younger guys in the kitchen; I take pride in what they have to say as well,” she said. “But at the end of the day I stuck to what I thought was best and what I wanted to cook and that’s what got me where I was.”
McNee has been working at the restaurant for eight years and was also the winner of the fifth annual Game Chef cook-off in 2016 – the first time a female chef had won the competition.
Finalists included Orry Shand, Chester Hotel in Aberdeen; David Mathieson, Entier Services; Craig Gibb, the Orde Food Company; Calum Cousins, Loch Lomond Golf Club; Darren Seggie, City of Glasgow College; Colin Lyall, Tor Na Coille Banchory; and Jamie Scott, the Newport Restaurant.
McNee said of the competition: “It’s so easy to cook in your own environment, you’re used to where everything is kept, and then you’re put into a completely different place with different cookers, different temperatures and you’ve got all these people looking at you. It’s actually very hard.
Regarding future career plans, she added: “I’m really happy where I am and I love where I work so I’m just going to keep doing this and working hard and see where life takes me.”
Commenting on her win, Andrew Fairlie said: “I was absolutely delighted and very proud of Lorna winning Scottish chef of the year, she has worked tremendously hard to get ready for the competition and coming out on top in light of such strong competition is a fantastic achievement.
“Lorna started with us eight years ago with very little experience, she has gradually worked her way up to junior sous chef in our kitchen and has been an integral part of the success we have enjoyed over the years. I hope she will be an inspiration to more young females that are considering a career in the kitchen. She has worked very hard to get where she is and deserves all the success that awaits her.”
Speaking on STV, senior judge Kevin MacGillivray, regional executive chef at MacDonald Hotels, said: “It’s a massive achievement. She executed her dishes to perfection. The cooking was outstanding, the seasoning was spot on, the four courses all ate so well together. It was great cooking.”
Videos from The Caterer archives