This week we are devoting Foodie Edit to Andrew Fairlie who sadly passed away today. Undeniably one of Scotland’s finest culinary talents here Andrew chats about kitchen gardens, favourite eateries and essential ingredients
We all love being let in on a secret – so stepping inside the ‘secret garden’of Glenagles’maestro Andrew Fairlie is a real treat.
Together with his star grower-gardener, Jo Campbell, who created a garden for Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons before being lured up to Scotland, the chef shows us the amazing range of plants they’re growing just down the road from the legendary Gleneagles hotel, home to the chef’s eponymous restaurant.
Andrew maintains that the garden has inspired the chefs in his two-Michelin-star kitchen to experiment with rare herbs, vegetables and fruits they never knew existed until Jo introduced them.
Sowing the seeds
What compelled Andrew to create a kitchen garden
‘When I was with Michel Guerardat Les Pres d’Eugenie., my first job in the morning was to go round the kitchen and ask the chefs what they needed, then go into the garden and snip rosemary and verbena before proceeding to the local orchards to pick peaches. It was a magical time –I looked forward to getting up and going out into the garden to inhale the scents.
‘As I travelled around France, Spain and Italy, I was struck by how much better their produce was, and felt we were abdicating our responsibility for what we were buying for the restaurant from the Glasgow produce market. We’re pretty well served for meat, fish and game, but the vegetable bit was always missing for us.
‘I had a very romantic idea in my head about being able to enter my own garden and pick herbs and vegetables the same day we served them, but I didn’t know how to do it. There was no room on the Gleneagles estate, but, three years ago, we heard about this couple who had an unused walled garden close to the hotel they they were willing to lease to us.
‘I tweeted that I was looking for a gardener –I was desperate for expert help – and Jo saw it. I was knocked out by her passion for growing and her great photography. We wouldn’t have the garden we do if it wasn’t for her.
‘This is our third growing season, and it has made a world of difference. The first season we just got her to grow what we had been buying, and in some ways, we got it wrong; great gluts of carrots, turnips and radishes and not enough of other things. I underestimated that we needed to speak to Jo every day and know what was coming in a week’s, two weeks’and a month’s time.
‘Now I visit the garden three or four times a week. The chefs and front of house come down too and work there for a couple of hours. We assumed the garden would be barren for winter, but we’ve started growing for the season and it’s open year-round. Last year Jo produced wonderful little celeriac – we could have used so many more of them.
‘May and June are my favourite times tocook; when we produce herbs in quantities we could never afford to buy, using them to flavour desserts like parfaits as well in savoury dishes, like lamb with lovage sauce.
‘I love coming into the walled garden and feeling the energy, and I’m spending more and more time in my garden at home. When I say I’d like to become a full-time gardener, I’m only half-joking!’
The fragrant ingredients Andrew can’t live without
They said we couldn’t grow this herb in Scotland, but we have bushes-worth!
We grow Mexican as well as French varieties – far more potent than bought stuff.
A wonderful herb we use to flavour summer parfaits.
ANDREW’S FAVOURITE RESTAURANTS
Les Pres d’Eugenie, south-west France
‘Where it all began for me 30 years ago.’
L’Astrance and Pierre Gagnaire, Paris
‘Two places I go to for a treat. I visit Paris annually to see what chefs are doing.’
‘Eneko Atxa is one of the innovative chefs of northern Spain who I find inspirational.’
‘My secret bolthole west of San Sebastian, where I was first taken by a winemaker