“To eat well in England,” French-born British pensman Somerset Maugham once quipped, “you should have breakfast three times a day”. Several decades on, though, the phrase ‘British fine dining’ no longer has an oxymoronic clang to it: the country once associated with the stodgy, bland legacy of wartime rationing now has a burgeoning culinary scene with a growing reputation for rigorous innovation and energy.
A number of well-established titans of the kitchen can take credit for this British culinary renaissance: but who are tomorrow’s hottest prospects? Our annual Culinary Masters focus is an attempt to find out, by consulting the country’s big-name chefs of the moment. One of their nominees is not British by birth, and not all are currently plying their trade here: all, however, spent all or part of their formative years learning from, and contributing to, Britain’s blossoming culinary milieu – and all will hopefully contribute to its future.
We’re sad to report that, since our Culinary Masters feature was written, one of its leading protagonists – Andrew Fairlie, pictured above and profiled below – has stepped down from his Gleneagles restaurant after revealing he has a terminal brain tumour. This feature goes out as a tribute to his excellent contribution to Britain’s culinary landscape. We wish him strength and comfort during this difficult time. – Nick Scott, Editor, Robb Report UK
Nominator: Andrew Fairlie
Patron of his eponymous restaurant at Glengeagles, Scotland – the only double Michelin star in Scotland and one of only 15 in the UK
With his eponymous restaurant at the world-renowned Gleneagles hotel in Scotland retaining two Michelin stars for more than a decade, Andrew Fairlie can lay claim to be his homeland’s premier chef. Not that the self-effacing master craftsman would ever shout about himself – he is too interested in investing his time in others’ development for that. “Moving back to Scotland after five years in France, it was immediately obvious that if I wanted people to work for me in the way I wished to run my kitchen, I had to take on the responsibility of training and leading them,” he explains.
As a result, a host of raw talent has been through Fairlie’s Perthshire kitchen over the last 17 years, emerging as sophisticated chefs in their own right – not least his nomination for Robb Report UK’s Culinary Masters 2018, fellow Scot Ian Scaramuzza, who badgered Fairlie for a job for months: “Ian comes from a very rough area of Glasgow, but as soon as he stepped into the kitchen he just looked at home,” says Fairlie.
Fairlie describes his former protégé as “one of those very rare chefs who has a very natural touch”, and also admires his inexhaustible thirst for knowledge. “By the time he left us he’d developed into a fantastic leader. He has an incredible work ethic and is also very ambitious.”
That ambition has now taken Scaramuzza, via a successful stint at Hibiscus in London, to San Francisco. There, he is working for globally acclaimed chef Corey Lee, leading the kitchen at InSitu within the city’s Museum of Modern Art.
Nominee: Ian Scaramuzza
A former protégé of Claude Bosi as well as Fairlie, now Head Chef at InSitu, San Francisco
In his early twenties, Ian Scaramuzza targeted Scotland’s only two-Michelin star kitchen and, through dogged persistence, bagged a job as a commis chef – only to wonder what the hell he’d done. “I was overwhelmed,” recalls the 33-year-old. “Walking into Andrew’s kitchen, where every dish is counted down every 30 seconds, is an eye-opener for any chef, never mind an inexperienced kid from Glasgow.”
But the young chef stuck at it and soaked it all up. “I learned everything from Andrew – I couldn’t have asked for a better grounding. I was exposed to the some of the best produce in the world.” Scaramuzza also saw how his boss conducted himself – how you could be ambitious but stay humble.
He moved to London to get fresh experience under Claude Bosi at the feted Hibiscus: “It was a hard, fast-paced environment and just what I was looking for.” After five years, he headed to California, first to work at Corey Lee’s flagship, Benu, and then to his new opening, InSitu.
The environment may be very different, he says, but the culture of passing on knowledge doesn’t change. “I’ve always mentored young chefs in the kitchens I’ve worked in – when it’s frustrating I remind myself that that was me at some point. And it’s very rewarding seeing their progress.”
While he’s loving the Californian lifestyle (“You can’t really compare the weather with Auchterarder!”), Scaramuzza’s ultimate goal is to return to the UK and open his own place. With his blend of talent, determination and personality, that is undoubtedly one future restaurant to look forward to.
1985 Born in Glasgow
2004 Begins a two-year stint at Glasgow’s House for an Art Lover as chef de partie
2006 Joins Etain and Zinc Bar & Grill, Glasgow (winner of two AA Rosettes, and the AA Restaurant of the Year 2006) as chef de partie
2007 Moves to Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles (holder of two Michelin Stars and 4 AA Rosettes), to work as a sous chef
2012 Joins Hibiscus, London (two Michelin stars, five AA Rosettes) as sous chef, and is promoted to head chef the following year. Guest chef dinners and pop-ups for Claude Bosi are among his duties
2015 Wins the Roux Scholarship, before undertaking a three-month stage at Benu, San Francisco, with Corey Lee
2016 Joins Dan Barber’s wastED Project in London where, as head chef, he is responsible for research and development and the running of a six-week pop-up
2017 Following a three-month period helping with menu development for Clare Smyth’s debut restaurant, joins InSitu – chef Corey Lee’s Michelin-starred restaurant found within the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Wherever their career paths take them, all, of course, have a mouth-watering future ahead, according to the household-name British-based gourmands that our resident food expert William Drew quizzed about their recommended ‘ones to watch’: Andrew Fairlie, Tom Kerridge, Angela Hartnett, Stephen Harris and Claude Bosi.
Look out for Part II of our Culinary Masters 2018 series tomorrow.