Earlier this year I was asked by Scotland Food & Drink to become a chef ambassador, championing Scotland’s larder. Of course, I had said yes before they had finished their sentence. This is the sort of project that I am deeply passionate about and regardless of what else you have going on, how busy your life or restaurant might be, you say “Yes”. Because they don’t ask twice I am, as you all know, very patriotic and I am a huge fan of Scotland Food & Drink and the work they do. I firmly believe that the when the Scottish Government sat down and looked at the industries that could shine a global spotlight on Scotland, Food and Drink was the right choice to have made. James Withers originally set a 2017 target of £12.5 billion of economic turnover associated with our sector. Well, we hit that last year; in fact I heard recently, that worldwide, 40 bottles of whiskey are sold every second.
The new target, I’m told, is £16.5 billion and I am proud to be part of the 2014 Food & Drink campaign that will help to deliver this ambition. Building our reputation, both at home and abroad, as a true Land of Food and Drink is crucial to boosting the economy and global awareness of Scotland as a destination. But it’s not just about pulling in the tourists. As little as 10 years ago I struggled to get artisan products and would be forced to look further afield for some of the restaurant’s less obvious ingredients.
Now, with the joined up thinking that Scotland Food & Drink have afforded chefs, producers and farmers, we have an abundance of choice and variation. This is the knock on effect of getting the right help into the right places. This campaign aims to showcase all of these producers, both large and artisan, and all of the fantastic tastes and flavours that come from our land. When you take a bit of time to sit back and look in at what Scotland can offer you will find that there is staggering gastronomic innovation, a vast array of regional specialities and world-renowned products – it’s not just the whiskey!
This year of course, the eyes of the world are on Scotland and the 2014 Food & Drink campaign is allowing me to join in the celebrations of food and drink across the country. As well as my ambassador’s role, my pal, Jim Fairlie is setting up his stall at The Commonwealth Games as part of this same project and I’m sure I might get a shout out to help before the end of the fortnight! It is this that makes the whole thing so important to me; people are building their jobs and lives and families on this land.
Jim and I are just two wee parts of the big picture and to both of us, in different ways, Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and the year-long Homecoming Scotland programme will generate so many opportunities for us and the food and drink industry that we love, to shine.
I feel blessed to be given a chance to carry such an important message and I would urge producers, hoteliers and restaurateurs to embrace the ethos behind this campaign. And you’re not off the hook! We can all do our bit in generating the demand by asking or thinking about the source of ingredients when dining out or eating in. So, would I have been asked twice… Maybe. But you know, I have been an ambassador for Scotland Food and Drink since I pulled on my chef’s whites on the first day of my YTS at 17 years old. There was game hanging in the larder and I was give instruction in filleting a salmon. On my first day. And that is the real reason I said “Yes” before they had finished their sentence.