Local man Bryan MacDonald was brought up here in Fort William; even when he left school aged 17, he had his heart set on a career as a chef. Here he tells us a little bit more about his journey to becoming a Senior Chef with Crannog Restaurant, and his passion for the food he cooks.
How long have you worked at Crannog Restaurant?
“I’ve worked at Crannog for about 12 years in total, with some short spells in Glasgow to help me gain more experience in different types of restaurants.
“I have worked my way through the kitchen in various roles. I started my career at a large hotel in Fort William, which was incredibly busy; and then worked in a more casual café style restaurant. I enjoyed both types of work and the experiences I gained there. I was then lured to the bright lights of Glasgow! I worked in a busy Italian restaurant there and then a smaller French restaurant, and both provided me with really great experiences and I certainly learnt a lot and added to the skills I had.
“On my return to Fort William I started working at Crannog. This was a long time ago and during the wild winter in 2005, when the Crannog Pier was shut by a freak storm, the restaurant moved temporarily to The Underwater Centre. Here, I met my wife who happened to be working at The Underwater Centre too!”
Which is your favourite area of the Crannog kitchen to work in?
“Definitely the hot side where all the main meals are prepared; I love it when it’s really busy and it’s all action. We can serve up to 120 meals a night during the busy summer months so you’ve got to act quickly but really accurately too.”
Give us an example of a delicious meal you would enjoy preparing and cooking at home in Fort William?
“Anything with fresh fish is also great to cook – which I guess you’d expect me to say! Even though I have worked in a seafood restaurant for a number of years I still love filleting fish and cooking white fish like hake, turbot and halibut. You can’t beat a good, fresh piece of hake, also served with potatos and my favourite vegetable, asparagus.”
What do you do to keep up to date with new trends or changes in cooking?
“To stay current and up to date I watch plenty of cooking programs, do research on the internet and we also do plenty of “in house” trials and testing over the quieter winter months at the restaurant. This quieter time gives us all a great opportunity to experiment, improve and develop; for example, making different types of bread. I love watching Rick Stein, along with Masterchef and the Roux Scholarship.”
What do you do to ensure the quality of the seafood being served to guests at Crannog Restaurant?
“It’s all down to ensuring the fish we buy is top notch. Our main supplier is a local man from Mallaig who has a great handle on the market and fantastic fishermen friends. He provides our restaurant with great fresh fish mainly sourced from the West Coast. During our quieter winter months, he will drive from Mallaig himself with a box which contains a mix of fish which have been out of the water merely a few hours.’
“In the summer, when fish is in high demand in Scotland, he will supplement the supply from Mallaig with sources from the East Coast to meet our ever increasing needs. Another local supplier provides us with fresh West Coast shellfish, including scallops and mussels, and lobster from Mallaig and around Mull.”
What’s the process like, among the kitchen team, when it comes to creating new, seasonal menus?
“With Crannog’s seasonal menus the whole team get the opportunity to give ideas and provide their input. Head chef Stewart makes suggestions and then we can discuss as a team; he welcomes feedback and we all enjoy getting involved in options and adding our opinion, and obviously tasting the new dishes too!”
What do you like to do in your spare time?
“I love spending time with my wife and boys. The boys are starting to enjoy cooking as well and recently we have started baking together which is great fun, if a bit messy! Favourite creations in the kitchen so far are desserts, which you’d expect from three young boys, so sticky toffee pudding, chocolate brownies and cakes, in general!”
Bryan is just part of the ‘behind the scenes’ kitchen team at Crannog, who are led by head chef Stewart MacLachlan and, along with Bryan, our other Senior Chef is Robbie. If you’d like to learn more about our kitchen team, sign up to our blog to receive notifications of new posts, as we’ll be posting about more of the team over the coming months.