Neil Forbes, executive chef at Edinburgh's Café St Honoré, was named Scottish Chef of the Year at the Scottish Restaurant Awards last week. He told Gemma Rowbotham what the honour means for his career.
How do you feel about becoming the new Scottish chef of the year? I'm overwhelmed with joy, flattered and absolutely stunned. I keep using the word humbled because there are so many other great chefs out there. I didn't even know I was up for an award so it was quite bizarre. It really has been a phenomenal week for me and I suppose it's all down to hard work and commitment and doing what I do, which is promoting produce from Scotland and its growers, breeders and artisans.
What is your approach to food? My approach is quite basic in its element. There are no pointless garnishes, just really good, classic food. We all have to watch the pennies, especially in these days of austerity, but it's all about an education of cheaper cuts and buying whole carcasses and as many things on the bone as possible. Teaching people about local produce and seasonality is important, as is getting young chefs out there on to the farms.
What have been your career highlights so far? The one that springs to mind is winning a Caterer and Hotelkeeper Acorn award in 1997. I was nominated by David Wilson, a great friend of mine, and working at the Royal Scotsman; an incredibly privileged position. I was awarded with 29 others under 30 and at that stage of my career it was very flattering.
What would you like to achieve? I get an immense joy out of doing what I do and passing it on to the younger generation of chefs. I see my role as passing on the skills of butchery, buying produce and knowing where things are coming from as hugely important. If I don't do it I worry who will.
How important is sustainability? I work with the Sustainable Restaurant Association and it is a big issue. Land management, recycling and being part of the community are very important. Here in the back door of the restaurant we have a tiny courtyard where we're growing raspberries, rhubarb, potatoes, herbs, onions and horseradish. Yes, a little bit will go to the restaurant, but it's not about providing the restaurant, it's about teaching people that one person can change it a little bit.