Widespread tributes have been paid to revered two-Michelin-starred chef Andrew Fairlie following his death, aged 55.
The multi-award winning chef and founder of Scotland’s only two Michelin-starred restaurant, Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, had been diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2005. His declining health meant he was forced to step away from the restaurant’s kitchen at the end of 2018, handing the reins over to his long-term colleagues – creative co-founder Gregor Mathieson; general manager Dale Dewsbury; and head chef Stevie McLaughlin.
His death was announced by his father, Jim, who said: “It is with enormous sadness and grief that Kay and I announce the death of our beloved son Andrew. His wife Kate and his family have kept vigil with him for some weeks. He slipped away quietly this morning but his many achievements & memory will live on.”
Speaking on behalf of the family Kate and his daughters, Ilona and Leah added: “We are utterly heartbroken that Andrew has gone, but are so thankful we had this extraordinary man in our lives. He was a beautifully kind, generous loving son, father, husband, brother and friend, and enriched the lives of anybody lucky enough to meet him.
“He has taught us so many lessons in life, not least to be kind. He worked incredibly hard and his favourite thing to do was to create magic for us in the kitchen at home. We will miss his calm, wonderful spirit, his cheeky sense of humour and his loving nature.”
Speaking from Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, McLaughlin and Dewsbury said: “We are heartbroken that Andrew has gone, and our thoughts go out to Andrew’s wife, Kate, and his family. Our sadness is matched only by our tremendous pride in all his achievements, and our thankfulness that we had the opportunity to share in his life and career. We have lost our colleague, mentor and friend who was always on hand with great judgement, humour and inspiration. We will miss him terribly, but will take strength and huge pride in continuing to burn the flame of outstanding cuisine, service and culture that he established.”
Sharan Pasricha, founder and CEO of Ennismore, owner of Gleneagles, added: “Andrew was a true visionary, and one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met. His extraordinary achievements in the kitchen have paved the way for future generations, and he’ll always be remembered as one of the greatest chefs of his lifetime. He was a huge part of our Gleneagles family and we’ll miss him more than words can say. We’re incredibly proud to continue his legacy so that many more people get the chance to experience what made him a culinary icon.”
Fairlie was propelled into the public eye at the age of 20 when he became the inaugural winner of the Roux Scholarship in 1984.
Michel Roux, founder of the Roux Scholarship with his brother Albert, said: “Today the Roux Scholarship family mourns the loss of our first scholar, the fearless and brilliant Andrew Fairlie. Our heart goes out to his family and the Gleneagles team. To me, Andrew was like a son and to our scholars and judges, a brother. But death is never the end. Andrew knew we would always carry him with us and his precious legacy will endure.”
As part of his Roux Scholarship prize, he spent three months working under three-Michelin-starred chef Michel Guérard at Les Prés d’Eugénie in Gascony, France.
He went on to more than live up to the potential that Michel and Albert Roux, founders of the scholarship, saw in the young chef. His career included two seasons as chef de cuisine on the Royal Scotsman train, a spell at Hotel Disneyland in Paris where he set up the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant and ran the 360-cover California Grill, and the head chef role at what was then Ken McCulloch’s 27-bedroom townhouse hotel One Devonshire Gardens (now part of Hotel du Vin) in Glasgow.
McCulloch told The Caterer that as well as cooking with “great style and passion”, Fairlie was a hugely generous and supportive friend. “When I opened the Dakota Duluxe hotel in Glasgow, Andrew was the first one on Instagram to recommend people should come and visit – it was something he did off his own back.
“One Devonshire Gardens was already established when Andrew arrived, but he really helped make its name and do something that hadn’t been done before in the city centre by winning a Michelin star.”
After seven years at One Devonshire Gardens, which was awarded a Michelin star, Fairlie opened his eponymous restaurant at Gleneagles, committing £115,000 of his own money to the venture. He achieved his first Michelin star at Gleneagles in 2002, with his success winning him the Newcomer of the Year Catey later the same year.
Restaurant Andrew Fairlie received a second Michelin star in 2006, making it one of only 11 (at the time) restaurants in the UK to hold such an accolade. Other awards have included the HIT Scotland Industry Award, the Chefs’ Chef of the Year accolade at the AA awards, the Scottish Chef of the Year at the inaugural Scottish Restaurant Awards, and the Chef of the Year at the 2014 Cateys.
Brian Turner, president of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts, of which Fairlie was a member, spent many years alongside him as a fellow judge of the Roux Scholarship. He said: “This is such sad news for the industry. Andrew was a hugely talented chef, a great friend – his brightness, smile and knowledge of competition work is going to be sorely missed.
“Andrew was a great supporter of everything that the academy did and was a very well deserved first winner of the Roux Scholarship. In that unique position, he was always ready to help any competitor in their approach. He really understood how competitions worked and for many years was a champion of young people involved in such events.”
Fellow two-Michelin-star chef Sat Bains, who followed in Fairlie’s footsteps by winning the Roux Scholarship in 1999, became a good friend and another judge of the competition. “Today is a very sad day,” he said. “Most who knew Andrew knew he was ill, but he never let on. Amanda [Sat’s wife] and I were very lucky to have seen him in November when we went up and met up with Andrew and Kate. Andrew was in a wheelchair, but he still had that glint in his eye. Kate was an immense strength as I broke down when he said he wanted to stand and give us a hug! That’s how I will remember him – he had such determination and was, such a strong man.
“I was lucky to break bread, drink wine and chat with Andrew over the many years I got to know him. He was always there for support after I won the scholarship and always spoke wise words. There was no ego, he was just fair, respectful and kind.
“I will miss him enormously and mine and Amanda’s heart goes out to Kate and his whole family. We have lost someone special in our lives today, but his legacy continues. I hope I can be a little more like Andrew as I grow. RIP chief. I love you.”
Former editor of The Caterer, Amanda Afiya, paid tribute to a mischievous, passionate and highly intelligent chef. She said: “I can’t remember the first time I met Andrew, but I do vividly remember the night before his Chef Eats Out event at One Devonshire Gardens in 2000. My team and I arrived at the Glasgow hotel early evening to find Andrew and his chefs prepping for the next day. We had a few drinks together and Andrew talked us all into going to a nightclub – a crazy thing to do given the formalities of the day ahead – but it’s this mischievous side of Andrew that I will always think of, giggling, joking, full of life.
“Andrew had so many fine qualities and he could be intensely serious too. Highly intelligent and hugely principled, we locked horns on several occasions over politics, but we never fell out. How could I fall out with him? I had so much respect for the man.
“That he was one of Scotland’s most talented, technically gifted chefs is a given – his Roux Scholarship win clearly helping to launch him on his way – but few matched his passion for his country and his passion for his craft. His adoration for his team at Restaurant Andrew Fairlie simply poured out of him and he leaves us the most precious of gifts in allowing his restaurant to continue for many more guests to appreciate and enjoy, which is only fitting because he was, after all, a national treasure.”
Among those to have paid tribute this morning were Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon who said: “I’m so sorry to hear that Andrew Fairlie has died. My deepest condolences to his family. Andrew is gone far too soon, but his achievements will always be remembered and his legacy will inspire the next generation of world class chefs. It was a privilege to know him.”
Fairlie was a passionate Scotsman who played an integral role in putting Scottish food on the culinary map and became an ambassador for the Yes Campaign for Scotland to become an independent country in the 2014 referendum.
He is survived by his wife Kate, two daughters and two step daughters.