Featuring Fred Berkmiller,
Chef Patron of L’escargot bleu, Broughton Street, Edinburgh
How long have you been a chef?
I started my apprenticeship at the age of 14, and took my first head chef job was when I was 23.
Why did you become a chef?
I didn’t really choose to, rather I was told to. I think it took me a good 6 years before I started enjoying being a chef. The first years were not happy days at all.
I don’t really have a single favourite ingredient, but I enjoy high-quality products and I keep away from the supermarket.
But if I really had to mention one, it would be stock as it is the bare minimum needed for any good cooking.
Favourite or signature dish
Again I don’t really have one, every day’s dish should be a signature dish. I really enjoy a dish that takes at least 24-hours to make, like a coq au vin or good boeuf Bourguignon.
Favourite kitchen tool or equipment (apart from sharp knives)
I have a bain marie that holds a spatula, a whisk and a pair of kitchen tongs that I could not do without.
My grandmother could turn any simple ingredients into a great meal.
Any food you can’t/won’t eat
I have reached a point in my life where anything from any supermarket is hard to bear, and I do not shop from them.
Comfort food/guilty secret
Pasta. I go a long way to get supply for my “pasta cupboard”.
Stupidest customer or kitchen experience
A customer eating snail shells, he managed 5 out of 12 before complaining. I have no words.
That’s where we are today, completely disconnected to food, or in fact any food education. We have let the supermarkets take over our food habits.
Fred started his apprenticeship in his hometown of Tours in the Loire Valley. He settled in Scotland in 1995. L’escargot bleu, his third venue, was opened in 2009. Provenance, sourcing and sustainability have always defined Fred’s cooking since he started his journey as a chef.
Fred’s purchasing habits for Scottish ingredients are sustainable, economical and environmentally friendly. Instead of buying a prime steak cut, he buys the whole animal and ensures every part of it is used and nothing goes to waste. He grows fresh salad leaves, herbs and vegetables at Newton Walled Garden on the outskirts of Edinburgh. As he says, this enables him to supply his restaurant with better quality produce than he could source elsewhere.
Fred is an Ambassador for Scotland Food & Drink, and has won numerous awards, including a prestigious double in 2019 when he was awarded the ‘Chef of the Year’ title at the CIS Awards and L’escargot bleu was named ‘Best Restaurant Scotland’ at the Slow Food in the UK awards.
L’escargot bleu was reviewed in Tom Eats! in March, scoring a whopping 22/25. Click here to read about it. In these difficult times, Fred and his wife Betty have diversified with a takeaway service. It comes as no surprise to learn that people are raving about this too. Check their website to learn more and place your order.