Chef of the Week: Calum Montgomery – Chef Proprietor of Edinbane Lodge on the Isle of Skye

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I am the Chef Proprietor of Edinbane Lodge, we bought the building in November 2017. I took 9 months out of the kitchen to help out on-site with the full refurbishment of the 477 year old property. I’ve been cooking at the Lodge since August 2018.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
I didn’t know I wanted to be chef, until I stopped being a chef! I started working in a local 2AA rosette kitchen in my hometown of Portree as a dishwasher at age 14. I worked my way up to Chef de Partie but only as a job to make money to move to Glasgow at 17 to study Business Management.

After one year on the course, I realised an office job was not for me and I absolutely loved the thrill of cooking. I restarted my career as a chef at 18, moving back to Glasgow to study Professional Cookery at City of Glasgow College and work at One Devonshire Gardens. Since then I have worked my way up to Head Chef at Kinloch Lodge, Ullinish Lodge, I also had a brief spell in Denmark at Restaurant Frederikshoj before opening Edinbane Lodge as a restaurant in 2018. I’m still learning something new everyday.

I’ve learnt a lot from some fantastic chefs throughout the years who have heavily influenced my food style and approach to cooking, but my real passion comes from working with fresh Skye Produce. I always look to highlight the quality of larder we have here with every dish.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Working with fresh produce daily from my homeland. Creativity and the thrill of service.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Butter, chives and fresh produce. I don’t like working with anything that isn’t fresh.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Without a doubt, the dishwasher. The dishwasher appliance and the KP! A strong KP is the key to any kitchen, one of the most important jobs in the business! Anyone that tells you otherwise is lying.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
People saying “Local Produce” when it’s not. It winds me up like crazy just to slap that phrase on a bit of fish to sell it. Stay true to your ingredients and suppliers and the produce will speak for itself.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Jumping about jobs too quickly. It’s maybe the way things are now but kitchens are a lot easier to get into these days and chefs seem to jump about an awful lot.

I’d always encourage somebody to stay at least a couple of years in a job to try and learn the sections inside out and then move on. This allows the chef time to improve their own abilities but time to give back to the business or restaurant that has invested in them too.

If I see a CV from someone who has had 2 or 3 jobs within a year I would be immediately questioning their loyalty and what they could bring to the team on a long term basis.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Late summer/autumn, I love the produce we have available on Skye in this period. Incredible mushrooms, game and shellfish. We are usually super busy around this time so its much easier to plan our menus.

I’d say it’s one of the hardest parts of the job, planning orders and menus in the quieter times of the year like January and February so we can ensure we are still using the freshest ingredients possible.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
Anything that can showcase my native islands produce. Our suppliers do so much work in getting the produce to our front door, I always look to highlight the time and effort they have put into providing us with such quality.

We have a 28-day aged beef dish on just now from Vatten, in Skye. It’s special to me as my ancestors are from Vatten, in North Skye and they would have worked with similar produce centuries ago.

How do you come up with new dishes?
I’m very much inspired by our local suppliers and the landscapes of Skye. We have an incredible natural larder here, I just try to bring the best of Skye into the restaurant and hopefully let it speak for itself on the plate.

Who was your greatest influence?
I’d say Magnus Nilsson’s approach to how he ran Faviken has been my greatest influence in how we run Edinbane. I want to give our guests a true taste of my homeland. Sourcing of ingredients is not always the easiest thing to do, but it is very important to me that we use as much local, sustainable produce as we can.

Tell us three chefs you admire
-Peter McKenna at the Gannet, Glasgow
-Billy Boyter at The Cellar, Anstruther
-Tom Kitchin at The Kitchin, Leith

All for the very same reason that these are three incredible chefs, who have put their name above the door and are cooking what they believe in. They are all incredible ambassadors for seasonal Scottish produce. I’ve eaten in all 3 of their restaurants and each one is individually impressive. Each chef showcases quality Scottish ingredients and have their own personalities shining through each dish.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Faviken or The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
I’m excited to see what Lorna McNee will bring to Glasgow since her recent announcement as Head Chef of Cail Bruich. Her experience at Restaurant Andrew Fairlie over the past 12 years should hopefully bring a long-awaited star to Glasgow, I loved her cooking on Great British Menu and look forward to dining there soon.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what lies next for Graeme Cheevers since leaving Isle of Eriska earlier in the year, the stars seem to follow him where he goes! I’m sure he’d be a welcomed addition to any restaurant in Scotland.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
I really enjoyed a lunch recently at NoTo in Edinburgh which opened just last year, I’d love to visit their sister restaurant, Aizle in the near future since they have reopened their new restaurant at the Kimpton Hotel, Charlotte Square. I’ve been following Stuart’s cooking for a while and I’m sure it will be a great success.