Most of us will have eaten in a restaurant which has only just opened its doors. We will take in the decor, probably smile a little at the inexperience of the waiting staff, then get stuck in to the menu and wine list. How many of us give any thought at all to the process…

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Last month I spent a pleasant Sunday at the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School. It occurred to me that although I have been on a fair few such courses over the past twenty odd years, and on several continents, I don’t recall reading many column inches on them. So here are some thoughts. Michelin Starred…

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If you want to begin at the beginning, you will have to go back about 4000 years to what is now Mexico. Archaeologists have established – I know not how – that chocolate beverages were being consumed from that time. The word they use for those early consumers is Mesoamericans, whose area stretched from modern…

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CHEF WATCH Featuring Craig Millar, Chef proprietor of Craig Millar @16 West End, St Monans, Fife How long have you been a chef? I have been a chef (including college) for 33years Why did you become a chef? I always say I became a chef as a matter of survival as my Mum was never…

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Even as lockdown eases, life can still seem a little, well, humdrum. We may be able to eat out, but there is a definite lack of spontaneity. Even the simple pleasure of popping in somewhere for a drink is accompanied by someone (alarmingly) pointing what looks like a laser site at the middle of your…

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Neil Gilmour and Andy Smith It’s the middle of August. Andy Smith and Neil Gilmour should be celebrating the second birthday of their fledgling business, Castle Game Scotland. The truth is, however, that they are far too busy. I was introduced to them and to their wonderful produce some time before lockdown. L and I…

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1 September is National Tofu Day. Time to celebrate? No, I’m not a fan of the stuff either. But it does give me an excuse to write about my first hand experience of making the stuff. Well, almost first hand. It was our first full day in Vietnam, and also the first day of 2020.…

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I know I said that On The Side would be taking a break and wouldn’t return till September. Well, fortunately, this column is more flexible than its editor. I was penning a review and added a section about the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out (EOTHO) scheme. It then dawned on me that as this…

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CHEF WATCH Featuring Stuart Muir, chef and co-proprietor of Dine, Edinburgh   How long have you been a chef? I started work as a commis chef at age 16 so 35 years ago now … Why did you become a chef? I used to go fishing and shooting with my father when I was young…

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I have to say that the readership numbers for the book reviews in this column have been a bit on the slack side. This surprised me a little. If you are interested enough to read this blog, I thought you might appreciate being directed to people who really can write, as opposed to my scribblings…

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It was an early holiday in what is now the not so far east which opened my very blinkered eyes to the topic of fruits from the tropics. On visit to a fruit farm/botanical garden I tasted fruits which I thought I knew. I was amazed that they seemed so different. Slowly it filtered into…

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This column will travel a very long way to avoid political comment; however, I was alerted for the very first time to this possible issue by reading some of the considerable commentary following the death of George Floyd. Black Lives Matter is not a new organisation. As a network, it was formed in 2013 by…

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Avocado Small

From time to time on the old website, Tom Cooks! would feature one particular ingredient and develop from there. Many of you have commented over the years that you have enjoyed the *history/useless trivia (*delete whichever you fancy) which went with that. For my own part, I thoroughly enjoy the research, in particular the often…

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Paul Askew Small

CHEF WATCH Featuring Paul Askew, chef and proprietor of The Art School, Liverpool   How long have you been a chef? This year I celebrate forty years in the hospitality business, starting as a 15 year-old kitchen porter. Why did you become a chef? Singapore provided me with one of my first and greatest inspirations…

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Narcissism in a professional kitchen? Whoever could imagine such a thing? No point in mentioning names, but anyone with more than a passing interest in food has encountered, either in real life or on screen, a chef who struggles to squeeze his ego through his own restaurant door. Similarly there are many kitchens where there…

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Annie Grey

So many books, especially biographies, disappoint. It is therefore the greatest of pleasures to read one which delivers far, far more than it promises. The subtitle of Dr Annie Gray’s latest book is, accurately but prosaically, The Life of Churchill’s Cook. In the introduction we learn that it is a biography of a lady named…

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Stay Alert Small

The slight easing of the lockdown rules combined with some summer weather has lifted the national mood. For us foodies who most miss the joys of eating out, what does the future hold and when? On The Side spoke to three players in the Edinburgh restaurant scene, Vikki Wood of The Wee Restaurant, Campbell Mickel…

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Roberta Hall Small

Featuring Roberta Hall, chef and co-owner of The Little Chartroom, Edinburgh and finalist in the Great British Menu How long have you been a chef? I have been a chef for 20 years. Why did you become a chef? I did one week’s work experience at The Tower Restaurant when I was 16 and I…

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I don’t use gadgets much, but a recent article in the Observer Food Magazine gave me pause for thought, as if we needed any more free time at present. Jay Rayner was writing of cooking in lockdown, and how he felt the need to use precisely the right tool for a specific job, even if…

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It is said that the most successful people in life are those who made plans early and followed them through rigorously. Apparently, on leaving university, Michael Heseltine scribbled down his goals on the back of an envelope. The list read – 25 Millionaire; 35 Cabinet Member; 45 Leader of the Party; 55 Prime Minister. All…

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Featuring Campbell Mickel of Merienda and Exec Chef Cuisine. See below for details of how to order their amazing food even during lockdown. How long have you been a chef? I started cooking full time when I was 15….February 1986. It was strange being so young out working 50 hours a week until very late…

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Lamb Rack

On many dinner tables this Easter Sunday, there will be a roast. Not as large as if the family was coming to visit, but lots of you will maintain a traditional feast on a smaller scale. And for many, perhaps even the majority, that will be sheep meat, almost certainly lamb. That’s a very fine…

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