Q&A with Alan Gibb, executive chef at Scotland’s top hotel
Seafood-lover Alan Gibb, resort executive chef at Gleneagles, Scotland’s top hotel, finds that seafood sales are increasing in his restaurants, with fish and shellfish now making up more than 65 percent of all starters. He spoke to SeafoodSource about his mission to get even more people enjoying it.
SeafoodSource: What is the biggest influence when choosing seafood for Gleneagles’ famous restaurants?
Gibb: Freshness of product is really important to us, as is consistency of supply. We aim to buy local wherever possible and work with our fishmonger to ensure that the best seafood from the market is delivered to us, along with farmed seafood from the best suppliers. The food we create relies on having the very best produce at its core. Sustainability is also a major factor to consider.
SeafoodSource: How do you address issues of sustainability?
Gibb: We try, where possible, not to run with any products that are on the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide ‘Fish to Avoid’ list. We also rely on advice from our fishmonger, who is much closer to the issues than we are in the kitchen. To ring the changes, we try to introduce lesser-known species and recently introduced pollock and coley onto the fish and chips menu. Customer demand also has to be considered also when making any decisions.
SeafoodSource: Are customers interested in the origins and provenance of their seafood?
Gibb:Generally, guests are very interested in where we source foods or where they are produced. Where possible, we include on the menus, the location of where the fish or shellfish has been caught or farmed. We also highlight these things when talking about the menu, or the talented producers who make items for it, like our salmon smokers.
SeafoodSource:What percentage of sales does seafood make up at your resort?
Gibb:Throughout the Gleneagles resort, fish and seafood make up around 20 percent of the purchases. Our biggest selling seafoods are salmon, crab, scallops and whitefish.
Smoked salmon, crab, scallops and sea-reared trout often feature as starters in our banqueting menus. In the Deseo restaurant, we sell several seafood dishes and feature megrim and hake as options. In this restaurant, we feature all the seafood (and other food) in a market-street style chilled display, where diners love to browse.
In the main Strathearn restaurant, the seafood option is the most popular for starters, with scallops, crab bisque, smoked salmon and oysters making up 65 to 70 percent of all starters sold. Halibut is a favorite main course, selected by 25 to 30 percent of those who order seafood.
In the Clubhouse, it’s all about fish and chips, which at the moment is plaice or pollock.
SeafoodSource:How are chefs trained to handle and cook seafood?
Gibb:We bring around half of our seafood in to be prepared in-house, so make sure the team is well trained in how to prepare langoustines, lobsters, flat and round fish, plus bivalves such as oysters and mussels.
As we display fish in Deseo, there are always whole fish to be filleted daily. If someone requires further training, I am happy to bring more of the fish in on the bone to give them plenty of practice. This skill takes time!
We have very strong links with our fishmonger so our chefs go down and do a shift on the filleting block if they can get up early enough!
The team also has to prepare the guest-caught trout from our stocked lochs, and the front-of-house team are trained to carve smoked salmon, which features right through from breakfast.
SeafoodSource:I understand that you get involved in outreach work with local schools. What does this involve?
Gibb:In the past year I have undertaken seafood training with 80 pupils, where they were able to try smoked salmon, scallops and ceviche.
We also did a dinner for 60 at the local school, where the pupils designed the menu, cooked and served it. A couple of keen pupils have been working around the kitchen for four weeks, to give them an insight into the catering industry, and at present we have a young lad coming in weekly to build his confidence.
I regularly host sessions for pupils from catering colleges, who get to see what it’s like to work in a busy kitchen and they are always fascinated by the seafood section, as they get little practice in college working with fish and shellfish. And just to keep me on my toes, I am doing a ‘ready, steady, cook’ event next week for about 200 pupils, where seafood features.