Meet the chef: Sean Kelly

Nestled in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, The Lovat Loch Ness is owned by Sean Kelly who brings his distinctive and innovative cooking to Inverness-shire

What inspired you to become a chef?
Growing up in Essex, I had aspirations to join the fire brigade but after leaving school I found myself drawn to the kitchen instead. I began my career as a Commis Chef at The Bell Inn, an award-winning restaurant in Essex.

You’ve been described as ‘The Heston of the Highlands’ – good description?
Heston is an amazing chef with several Michelin stars; just to be compared to him is very humbling. I’m just doing my thing in Fort August and hope people like it!

Tell us more about your style of cooking?
Having worked for several years in France that has had a big influence on my cooking but I’d describe it as simple, seasonal and eye catching with an emphasis on sustainability. I’m constantly being inspired by the Scottish larder and my suppliers. I love coming up with exciting ways to use Scottish produce. The area surrounding our hotel in Fort Augustus is brilliant for foraging too – we find sloes, chestnuts, chanterelles and other goodies that often make their way onto my menus.

What’s on the menu this summer?
That’s not an easy question to answer as the menu is adapted or changed with what’s available at any particular time but I always look forward to getting chanterelles and ceps on in the summer.

Signature dish?
Again, not an easy one to answer but the one that gets a lot of attention is our ‘Kinder Surprise’. It’s a dessert made from chocolate, lemon and buttermilk that looks like a broken egg on the plate. I would say that I have more of signature style rather than dish – although there have certainly been some favourites amongst our guests such as my Lemon Cheesecake and basil ice cream. I like taking traditional dishes and turning them into lighter, more fun dishes using modern techniques. My Shepherd’s Pie with Lamb Titbits involves a mini Shepherd’s Pie served in a potato basket alongside tasty cuts of lamb from shoulder to sweetbreads and vibrant pea purée.

Favourite ingredient?
It’s hard to pick one but I love Isle of Skye Sea Salt which has been made from Loch Snizort on the island for 300 years now. It’s organic and dried naturally by sunlight, producing nice crystals that are ideal for finishing off dishes and sprinkling on red meats.

Favourite kitchen gadget?
Vegetable sheeter

Kitchen soundtrack?
The clatter of pots and pans! I don’t work with music on

Other chefs that inspire you?
Lots! There are so many good chefs out there, in the UK and around the world, they all inspire me.

Where do you like to eat when you’re not working?
At home with the wife Caroline who I run The Lovat with, don’t tell her but I think she’s a better cook than I am!

Words of wisdom to younger self?
Write everything down and focus

What would you be doing if cooking was not your career?
I’m not sure, maybe a travel writer


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