Isle of Skye's The Three Chimneys general manager tells us about his very early start at the hotel
The morning parade in the Dudkowski house starts at this time with a walk for our overzealous border collie, Butter.
The rest of the family begin to rise with the usual negotiations, manipulations and commotions. It’s nothing that a freshly ground coffee and breakfast cannot set right. I have a quick scan of the morning news and check any overnight handovers from the Three Chimneys team before I head off on the school run, which is closely followed by the work run. The morning drive to the Three Chimneys is truly spectacular in every season and really lifts the spirits. As I wind my way through hills, trying to dodge strays from the significant population of sheep keeps me alert. They are the real landlords of Skye with grazing rights that are far too close to the road. On the approach to the hotel, I can often spot seals and dolphins in Dunvegan Loch.
Our hotel breakfast is a real treat for our guests and when I arrive at work I try to spend time with them as they finish eating and begin to make their plans for the day. At this point, it is good to get their perspective on the meal experience they had the night before. With a seasonal menu that’s constantly in transition as chef Scott Davies sources local meat, fish and game it is important to find out what dishes really were the most memorable.
The remainder of the morning is never the same, with me calling on every skill set I can muster to fix a leak, secure a loose door or finding somebody who can. On Skye, this can be a challenge in itself. At some point, I also try to do a morning walkabout to chat to our great team. We are so proud of their passion and dedication to excellence and they constantly inspire me with their ideas and positive energy. The bountiful larder that Skye offers begins to arrive at The Three Chimneys just after the breakfast service finishes. The quality of that produce is critical to each dish and chef Scott hand picks what he needs for the menu. When it comes to the seafood, we’ll leave the hotel to collect directly from the fisherman when they return to shore. A call from the trawler and Scott or I head to the harbour to select the freshest crab, langoustines and lobster straight from the boat.
Lunch brings visitors to Skye who are often coming from or going to visit the tourist attractions that are Neist Point, the Fairy Pools or Dunvegan Castle. When the sun is shining (and it does sometimes, believe me) outside tables must be set up with umbrellas and cushions, and, before the guests arrive, I do a quick inspection of our gardens to check the sheep and rabbits have not done too much damage. A key part of my role is to make sure the stage is set to welcome our lunch diners. My afternoon schedule can vary greatly, but it’s also when I sneak a bite of the sandwich and fruit that was lovingly prepared by my daughter, Maya, that morning. She will often come to the Three Chimneys after school and, if not diligently getting her homework done, will take a ride to collect the langoustine or crab with me.
Dinner-time is when the Three Chimneys really comes to life. The hotel residents and Kitchen Table guests will meet in the lounge at House-over-By for pre-dinner drinks and canapes from 6pm onwards. This is another of my favourite parts of the day as I get to engage with our new guests and enjoy hearing and sharing stories of the Isle of Skye. Many of our guests are returning to us and I enjoy their excitement as they head over to the restaurant for another memorable meal. Danny and Kieran, who head up our restaurant team and chef Scott and his kitchen brigade, take over as guests settle in the dining room and my day begins to wind down.
I get home in time for dinner, as eating with my family is very important to me. The meal is usually prepared by my wife who is an amazing cook and baker. When I am not working, I enjoy fishing and foraging for mushrooms and on the odd occasion when I prepare the evening meal, I’ll try to use these locally sourced products.
As the day draws to a close, I wind down with a good book, or I'll watch a suspenseful movie or a courtroom drama on the TV. I also enjoy researching Scottish history. My current reading is The Killing Fields of Scotland: AD 83 to 1746 by R J M Pugh.
Bedtime is around now, then I’ll sleep until Butter gets me up the next morning.
The Three Chimneys is a finalist for the Sustainability Award sponsored by Scotland Food and Drink at the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards 2022. The winners will be announced on October 28, see www.hifoodanddrinkawards.com
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