Chef of the Week: Steve Scoullar, Executive Chef for Virgin Voyages

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I have worked for Virgin Voyages as Executive chef for three months. Extremely happy and proud to be in the position for the launch which will be in April 2020.

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My passion for food started as a young teenager travelling through Europe with my family and experiencing the diversity and food cultures-ultimately drawing me in to the profession. I started as a Commis Chef in the 3AA rosette Middlethorpe Hall on the outskirts of York and my career has taken me through 6* cruise lines, small boutique hotels, fine dining restaurants and most recently opening the 650 cover Ivy Brasserie and Ivy Asia restaurants in Manchester as Senior Head chef.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
I enjoy the freedom to express your personality and passion with food and cooking, I love travelling the globe and learning what the world has to offer, taking in the delights of Maguro Toro from the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo or buying Quinoa and Mashua on the streets of Lima, its a never ending journey!

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Salt, imagination and love.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Tasting spoon!

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
The keto diet is in full swing and becoming ever more popular. Vegetarian and vegan forward food is going to be the biggest food trend for 2020.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Young chefs that rush through the trade, looking for the promotion and the pay rise before they are ready for it. Take your time and the rewards will come with hard work, commitment and passion.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
That has to be spring time. The substantial, heavier winter food leaves for the freshness of peas, rhubarb, asparagus, Welsh lamb and North Sea brown crab all coming into season.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
Most recently I would say those that I put on the menu at Ivy Asia in Manchester, some great flavours and textures.

Korean Yukhoe tartare, pickled Asian pear with sesame and maple and the Wagyu Tataki dishes were two of my recent favourites.

How do you come up with new dishes?
I like to expand on all the food trends and cultures that I experience and execute them with some of my personality. Creating dishes from the heart, authentic and flavoursome!

Who was your greatest influence?
I have two great influences, I worked with a chef called Kelly Cochrane when I was with Regent Seven Seas, who progressed me from Executive Sous Chef to Executive Chef. I perfected my attention to detail from him as well as modern day management techniques coming away from the old school kitchen management.

The second influence was Mark Askew at The Ivy, was a huge honour working closely with Mark.

Tell us three chefs you admire
Joel Robuchon, Mark Askew and Gordon Ramsay.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the River Cottage MEAT book.

Who do you think are the chefs to watch over the next few months?
Michael Turner is going from strength to strength at Bread Street Kitchen and I expect him to scoop several awards in 2020.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
I have to say it is going to be the five exceptional restaurants that we will be opening on board Virgins Scarlet Lady later this year.