The Hot Scots Power 40: Shirley Spear, the Three Chimneys, Isle of Skye

21 February 2013
The Hot Scots Power 40: Shirley Spear, the Three Chimneys, Isle of Skye

Ranking: 19

Shirley Spear - Snapshot

Shirley Spear is the co-owner, with husband Eddie, of Skye's legendary Three Chimneys restaurant with rooms. The couple launched their business in 1984 and over nearly 30 years have won a raft of awards for their cuisine and service - for 20 years built around Shirley's cooking until she handed over the kitchen to Michael Smith in 2005. Both Shirley and Eddie, although recently semi-retired, are still heavily involved in the business - and Shirley's passion for promoting all-things-hospitality and all-produce-Scottish continues unabated.

Shirley Spear - Career guide

The Spears bought the site of the Three Chimneys - an old stone croft - in 1984 for £47,000 after seeing it advertised in Caterer and Hotelkeeper. At the time the couple were living in Croydon, Eddie's hometown, but Peebles-born Shirley remembered childhood holidays on Skye and the couple - neither of whom came from hospitality backgrounds moved back to her home country.

Shirley's cooking - and sheer hard graft - meant that the couple gradually built up a reputation and the Three Chimneys soon became known for its championing of local Skye food: seafood, fish, lamb, beef and game.

In 1999 they put in six bedroom suites in what became known as the House Over-By, next to the restaurant, creating local jobs and promoting local business along the way. Growing international recognition was cemented when New York Times critic Frank Bruni gave the Three Chimneys a glowing review in 2008.

Last year, 2012, saw a rebuilding and extending of the kitchen, incorporating a highly successful chef's table. The refurbishment also enabled the Three Chimneys to put in disabled toilets for their restaurant customers.

Over the years the Three Chimneys has won copious awards and accolades: Bruni put it in his personal top five restaurants around the world; it was Visit Scotland Gold 5-star rated in 2012/2013; it holds three AA rosettes for its food, and in 2011 it was featured as a Caterer and Hotelkeeper Better Business role model.

When Smith took over from Shirley as head chef it enabled her to concentrate on her long held passion for promoting the hospitality industry to young people throughout Scotland.

Shirley Spear - What we think

You can't talk about the development of Scottish cuisine without a nod to Shirley Spear. Born in 1952 and a self-taught chef, she has from day-one of the Three Chimneys' existence passionately promoted local Skye produce on her menus: and that ethos still holds true under current chef-director Michael Smith, whose cooking style Shirley has nurtured since he joined in 2005.

She has also always been enthusiastic and proactive in promoting the hospitality industry among school children and young Scots professionals entering the industry, often working closely with Education Scotland and the Scottish Tourism Alliance.

In recognition of her tireless work championing Scottish produce and the Scottish hospitality industry she received a Lifetime Achievement award from Catering Scotland: and a Spirit of Scotland award for her cooking in 2002.

She is still, also, very much the public face of the Three Chimneys business. Retirement - what retirement?


Skye and mighty >>

The three chimneys >>

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