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Chefs behind chefs: Andrew Fairlie and Stephen McLaughlin

13 September 2013 by
Chefs behind chefs: Andrew Fairlie and Stephen McLaughlin

In the first in a new series, we interview the famous chefs and their loyal lieutenants - the ones who have worked in the shadow of their bosses for years. Here we meet Andrew Fairlie and Stephen McLaughlin of Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles in Auchterarder, who have been working together since 1994

Andrew Fairlie, chef patron, Restaurant Andrew Fairlie When I first met Stevie, he was a bit rough around the edges. He was a typical Glasgow boy and very cocky. He didn't seem very serious and I think he took it all as a bit of a joke at the beginning.

Initially, Stevie worked on pastry and he had a very tough time in the first year. He was one day away from being fired when I sat him down and told him he was being moved to a new section. He went home that night and came back the next morning completely reinvented. It's been like that with Stevie ever since: I put a lot of pressure on him sometimes but he can take it.

When I left One Devonshire Gardens in Glasgow to open my own restaurant at Gleneagles, Stevie was one of the first people I asked to join me because I knew he was very loyal. He'd had plenty of opportunities to go and work elsewhere but he never took them. From day one he was completely committed to my restaurant.

After I returned to work from the treatment for my illness, my head chef Darin Campbell left. I didn't promote Stevie right away because he wasn't ready for it. Over the years I have watched him mature and the way he manages my business now, the way he deals with staff, speaks to suppliers and interacts with customers, has been amazing to see.

Stevie is loyal to a fault and I can trust him implicitly. He's only ever worked one way so he can second-guess me and knows how I would react in certain situations. As a cook he is very detailed and precise in what he does and there isn't much more I can teach him now. I will always have the final say in things but I have absolutely no problem leaving Stevie in charge and I'm happy for him to put new dishes on the menu.

If Stevie left and I had to appoint a new head chef, I would never have the same relationship with anyone else.

Stephen McLaughlin, head chef, Restaurant Andrew Fairlie I first met Andrew aged 17, when I was studying at Glasgow College of Food Technology and applied to do work experience at One Devonshire Gardens, where he was head chef. I knew it was the best place in Glasgow because Michael Jackson and Pavarotti had stayed there.

Andrew scared me to death during my interview. I felt his aura right away and he asked me all these questions, which I was completely unprepared for. When I started in his kitchen I was instantly in awe of how it was run: the atmosphere was so professional, it was addictive, and although chef didn't say much, when he did speak everyone stopped and listened. I remember he showed me how to make a tomato butter and it completely blew my mind. It was so simple but tasted incredible.

After my college placement, I worked at Malmaison for a year before returning to Andrew as commis chef. I stayed for six years and worked my way up to junior sous chef and then joined Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles when it opened in 2001 as sous chef. When Darin Campbell left in 2006, Andrew promoted me to head chef.

In 2005 Andrew was diagnosed with a brain tumour and had to be off work for four months. It was absolutely imperative for me personally that we did everything we could to ensure we did an exceptional job in his absence so that he didn't have to worry about work and could concentrate on getting better. We won our second Michelin star the following year.

Andrew and I know each other so well now and we really trust each other. We don't have to talk every day; we both know what we want, which is good for me because I know what to do and it's good for Andrew because he knows the restaurant is in safe hands when he isn't there.

What I most admire in Andrew is his fairness. He treats everyone the same way he would his best friend. I've never wanted to go and do anything else. I have a great work-life balance and a lot of that is to do with Andrew and how he lives his life. I really enjoy what I do but more than anything I love who I am doing it for."

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