Chef of the Week: Gary Weir – Executive Chef Escape to Freight Island in Manchester

Gary Weir

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
6 months.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
A love for eating, which increased exponentially as I got a little older and began to try new things. I began to cook at home where I learnt a lot, before going on to work in hotels and fine dining and cutting my teeth.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Working with my hands. Creating something from raw ingredients everyday. The buzz and intensity of a kitchen. The constant learning curve.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Maldon sea salt, rapeseed oil and Kombu.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Pastry knife.

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
In the wake of recent events, I think we’ll see a continuation of local produce and simple, seasonal cooking. Food halls have been quietly multiplying in the past couple of years. 2021 will be a good year for them to thrive; offering large, open and safe spaces, and low investment opportunities for independent food and drink operators.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Thinking there is only one way to skin a cat!

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Summer offers the best variety of produce in the UK & Ireland. We still have an abundance of ‘Spring’ produce (which arrives later than the supermarkets would have you believe). It’s the best time to buy lamb and there is a good variety of fish available including turbot, other flatfish, monkfish and brown crab if you’re not too late.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of dishes which are inspired from nostalgia and memories of eating.

How do you come up with new dishes?
I begin with whatever inspiration I have; a memory, a concept, something I want to eat or learn about. From there a dish is built around useful parameters such as seasonality, textures, balance, harmony etc.

Who was your greatest influence?
My ma, obviously.

Tell us three chefs you admire.
Grant Achatz, Michael O’Hare, Francis Mallmann.

What is your favourite cookbook?
(At the moment) The Whole Fish Cook Book – Josh Niland.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Elizabeth Haigh, Josh Niland, John Chantarasak.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
Sadly, I haven’t been to a single new opening in the last year, apart from our own. So, I’ll have to say Forever Changes at Freight Island, Manchester. A low intervention wine bar with a hard-hitting selection of small plates, natural wine and cheese. Big things to come in 2021, I hope.