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The Caterer

The Hot Scots Power 40: Neil Forbes, Café St Honoré, Edinburgh

21 February 2013
The Hot Scots Power 40: Neil Forbes, Café St Honoré, Edinburgh

Ranking: 40

Neil Forbes, the chef-director of Edinburgh's Café St Honoré, is celebrated for his classic, unadorned food and recognised for his passionate support of Scottish produce - farmed and wild. His previous includes being at the helm of the Atrium and Blue restaurants until 2011. In 2011 he won the Scottish Chef of the Year award at the Scottish Restaurants Awards.

Neil Forbes - Career guide Forbes grew up in a family of chefs in the Highland town of Pitlochry. He began his career in 1986 at Casa dei Cesari in Surrey, before moving back to Scotland to the Ballathie House hotel in Perthshire. He went on to spend two years as chef de partie with David Wilson at his renowned St Andrew's restaurant, The Peat Inn: and he also did stages in the kitchens of Karl LÁ¶derer at Manley's in West Sussex and with Philip Britten when the latter was at The Capital hotel.

Forbes returned to Scotland to work as sous chef for John Webber at Kinnaird House where he learned about using local and wild produce, before embarking on a year's work and travel expedition to Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, the Whitsundays and the USA. By the mid-1990s Forbes was back in Scotland, this time as sous chef on board the famous luxury steam train The Royal Scotsman. He was now armed with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Scotland's diverse indigenous ingredients and ready-formed relationships with suppliers, some of which he still works with today.

While at the Royal Scotsman he won a coveted Caterer and Hotelkeeper Acorn Award in 1997 and worked for Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons and for Michel Roux at the Waterside Inn in Bray during the off-peak winter months. He joined Nick Nairn at his restaurant Braeval Mill in Aberfoyle as head chef soon after, successfully retaining Nairn's Michelin star after Nairn left to open his eponymous restaurant in Glasgow.

Forbes later joined Nairn's team in Glasgow as head chef, but with his marital home in Edinburgh, decided to give up the commute west and took over from chef-restaurateur Andrew Radford as Atrium's head chef in August 1999. In 2004 he became head chef at Atrium's sister restaurant Blue and when, in 2008, Cafe St Honoré became an associate restaurant, became executive chef of all three.

In February 2011 Atrium and Blue closed their doors and Forbes took on the role of chef-director of Café St Honoré. That same year he was named Scottish Chef of the Year at the Scottish Restaurant Awards.

Neil Forbes - What we think

Café St Honoré, known as Edinburgh's "best kept secret", is famed for Forbes' simple, uncrowded cooking style and its celebration of locally sourced and wild Scottish ingredients. His Saturday morning visits to the Edinburgh Farmers' Market form part of his restaurant's culture promoting regular communication with suppliers, breeders and artisans. He is one of few UK chefs to take delivery of whole carcasses, using as much of the animal as possible, passing-on his butchery skills with the younger chefs in this brigade.

Café St Honoré has been a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) since 2009, and was awarded the highest accolade of 3-star champion status in August 2012 for its Slow Food philosophy.

Passionate about passing on his skills to a younger generation of chefs, Forbes received a further award in February 2013 when SRA President Raymond Blanc presented him and his team with the national award for 'Society' at the awards ceremony in London. Forbes was praised for the holistic way the Cafe St Honoré approached its role in society, offering initiatives such as a profit share scheme for staff, external placements for chefs and work placements for local shoolchildren in the kitchen.
Forbes is also a local ambassador for the Slow Food Movement, giving talks to local schools about food provenance. He runs an allotment at a local university to teach students about horticulture and food production.

As a member of the Slow Food UK's Chef Alliance, he works closely with it and Slow Food Edinburgh to help spread the word on "good, clean and fair" food. He regularly demonstrates his skills at a broad range of events across the UK as well as appearing on BBC Radio Scotland's Kitchen Cafe.

Café St Honoré rated Scotland's most sustainable >>
Neil Forbes takes best chef title at Scottish Restaurant Awards >>

How to become more sustainable >>

Minute on the Clock: Neil Forbes >>

Café St Honoré website >>**

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