Introducing the captain of our kitchen, Head Chef Derek. We caught up with him in a rare quiet moment, to find out a little more about his food, the kinds of fare he likes to cook and his passion for uncomplicated dishes.
So, working with food, how did that start?
When I was 13 growing up in Oban and working as a kitchen porter in a local restaurant, the Chef showed me how to cook a vegetable stroganoff. He went out and a customer ordered it so I was thrown in at the deep end! Luckily the customer loved it and getting that opportunity led me in to a career in food.
What is your favourite dish to cook and eat?
That is impossible to answer. I just love food and cooking. The whole process of sourcing ingredients, planning a menu and creating dishes that people enjoy is what drives me. I’m a family man and do a lot of the cooking at home too, I do love a great roast dinner with all the trimmings. My one year old son is a foodie too, he hasn’t turned his nose up at any of my dishes yet!
What’s your kitchen ethos?
We’re a team. We work collaboratively on menu items and presentation so everyone has ownership of the product. Using local produce and supporting Scottish producers wherever possible is a key thing for me. We source all our smoked goods from the fantastic Loch Leven Smokehouse and our specialist butchers are Henderson of Glenrothes. Buying fresh, seasonal and local ingredients and making them shine is the way we try and do it. We don’t like to over-complicate things, starting with quality produce and using our expertise to make it sing is the order of the day really.
We try to be sustainable in what we do, using wood from our own woodland to fuel the pizza oven for example. For our ever popular Court House Fish and Chips, we’re moving to more sustainable coley which is a relative of the traditional haddock that’s normally used. It still has the meaty flesh and great taste of cod and haddock but switching gives stocks of those species a chance to recover from over-fishing. Respecting ingredients and showing them off to their best is a huge part of the ethos I try and foster with the whole team at The Court House.