Interview: Dominic Jack, chef

KITCHENS are a recurring theme in Dominic Jack's life. Prior to working towards this week's launch of Castle Terrace Restaurant in Edinburgh, where the 35-year-old is chef patron, he has spent the past couple of years cooking in Tom Kitchin's kitchen.

Which is appropriate since the Leith-based chef once spent an entire year sleeping in Jack's.

"I had a lilo in the kitchen and Tom slept on that. Every morning, because I started earlier than him, I let the air out before I left. He said he'd only be staying for two weeks, but a year on he was still there."

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The arrangement came about when Kitchin arrived in Paris to stay with Jack, who was working in a restaurant there. They had met a couple of years earlier at the five-star Gleneagles Hotel, where a terrified Jack, fresh from Edinburgh's Telford College, landed a peach of a job. A year and a half later Kitchin joined the staff and the two became close friends, going on to work with some of the world's best chefs before ultimately winding up as business partners back in Edinburgh.

Castle Terrace Restaurant has been developed by the team behind the Michelin-starred The Kitchin and fans of the latter will recognise many of the same influences at work.

Moving into premises vacated by Abstract, the restaurant has 50 covers, private dining for up to 12 and an exclusive space adjacent to the kitchen where guests can enjoy an aperitif and watch the chef in action. It's a far cry from Jack's Gleneagles days when he started at the bottom.

"Walking into a kitchen with 100 chefs was terrifying. It was a big shock to the system. I was in tears after three weeks when I got a good bollocking from the head chef where he pinned me against the wall. When Tom arrived we hit it off straight away. We're passionate about cooking and recipes. We're like two peas in a pod."

That'll be two fresh, locally sourced Scottish peas that have been immersed in French cooking techniques and served up in a relaxed and modern, yet classy environment, then. For Jack shares his friend and business partner's philosophy of serving the finest ingredients from Scotland's abundant natural larder to produce modern interpretations of classic Scottish and French dishes.

After four years at Gleneagles, Jack left Scotland for the Michelin-starred Fleur de Sel in Haslemere, then moved to Paris at the age of 21 to work in a series of Michelin-starred restaurants before being headhunted by the Swisstel in Istanbul.

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"While I was in Istanbul - which I loved - Tom would phone and say, 'You have to come back to Edinburgh'. He kept going on about the quality of the produce and how the mentality with regard to food had changed, so when my wife Francine became pregnant, we decided to take the plunge and move back in 2008.

Originally I was going to work at The Kitchin for a couple of months while we found a restaurant but then the credit crunch happened. But that was good because I got to meet lots of suppliers."

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One supplier Jack has yet to meet is a local producer of spelt. He became a fan of 'the grandfather of wheat' while working in Paris and is keen to find a Scottish source for the grain. "It's huge in Paris. I cooked with it every day for eight years and want to put it on the menu here. So if anyone knows where I can get it, please let me know," he says.

Besides featuring spelt, the menu at Castle Terrace, will follow the seasons. "The girelle mushrooms will be coming in shortly, then ceps then black truffles," he says. "I like to take a Scottish classic, break it down and put it back together, with a twist. I'd like to do that with Cullen skink or cock-a-leekie."

Staff from sister restaurant The Kitchin will be moving to Castle Terrace where the old Abstract has been given a makeover. Gone are the masculine panelling and dark colours, replaced by floral wallpaper and pastels.

"If a city like Paris can have so many Michelin-starred restaurants why can't Edinburgh? It's great for people who like to eat out, and for the restaurants themselves, because it attracts people who want to learn. Come to Edinburgh and eat, or come to Edinburgh and learn how to cook," he says.

"If it comes along, it comes along but I'm not going to chase accolades. I just want the restaurant to be busy and have a great atmosphere with happy people and good food."

Castle Terrace Restaurant (, 33-35 Castle Terrace, Edinburgh, opens to the public on Wednesday. For reservations, telephone Castle Terrace directly on 0131-555 1755, or email [email protected]

• This article was first published in Scotland on Sunday, July 11, 2010

janet christie