Foraging chef Gary Goldie heads for pastures new

A Noma classic, aebleskiver and muikku ' preserved fish in pancakes. Picture: Contributed
A Noma classic, aebleskiver and muikku ' preserved fish in pancakes. Picture: Contributed
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ONE of Scotland’s top chefs has split from the award- winning hotel where he made his name and is planning to open a rival restaurant.

Gary Goldie, who was executive chef at the four-star Ardanaiseig hotel on Loch Awe for more than 15 years and is a former Scottish chef of the year, abruptly left the hotel at the end of last month.

The acclaimed chef now plans to open a new restaurant in Oban inspired by Noma, the world-famous gourmet destination, in Copenhagen.

Goldie, who has signed a confidentiality agreement covering his time at Ardanaiseig and the reasons for his departure after a highly successful career, told Scotland on Sunday: “I don’t want to work for anybody else now. I want to work for myself.”

During his time at Ardanaiseig, Goldie won three AA rosettes, twice won the chef Medaille D’Or for Dinner Excellence, and saw his eatery named romantic restaurant of the year at the Scottish Hotel Awards in 2010. He was named Scottish chef of the year in 2011 for his innovative use of foraged food and local produce.

Goldie said of the split: “I wanted to go in a different direction. I just want to get on with my life and work towards opening my own restaurant.”

He is currently working at In De Wulf, a Michelin starred-restaurant in Dranouter in Belgium, and aims to open his new venture in Oban next March, in time for the 2014 tourist season. His departure from Ardanaiseig has caused surprise within the restaurant trade. One industry insider said: “Gary simply was Ardanaiseig. He really got the place and how to use its location and surroundings to best effect. He will be a huge loss to the hotel and the area.”

Scotland on Sunday restaurant critic Richard Bath said: “Gary Goldie’s departure from Ardanaiseig will obviously be a big loss given that he’s established a reputation over many years which has helped the hotel to become a favoured destination for foodies.

“But the lesson from other hotels is that long-time fans will give a hotel every chance to prove it’s business as usual with the new chef.”

Last year Goldie worked on a “stage” at Denmark’s Noma – which was named the world’s best restaurant three years in a row – cooking for free in the famous kitchen in order to learn new techniques and dishes. He is now doing a similar stint at In De Wulf, currently the 72nd best restaurant in the world, and hopes to return to Noma later in the summer.

“Noma is where I’m getting a lot of the inspiration for my new restaurant,” he said. “They use very simple and humble ingredients and they use a lot of foraged food. I want to feature lots of wild mushrooms and other things that have been foraged. I’m looking at using Highland cattle from Mull and a lot of local seafood as well. There will be no lemons or foreign ingredients. What I’d really like to do is make it into the top restaurant in the country, possibly even in Britain, for foraging.”

Goldie became known at Ardanaseig for his innovative use of foraged food in dishes such as fillet of sea bass with scarlet elf cup and wild garlic, duck breast with fried Lagganbuie duck egg and ground elder and John Dory with parsley root, broad beans and spring white truffle. He also regularly used foraged ingredients including hogweed, wild pea shoots, gorse flowers, watercress and scurvy grass.

Goldie said he had been looking at premises in Oban but had decided to wait until next year to open his new venture rather than attempting to launch half way through the busy summer season. The industry insider added: “Whatever Gary does next will be well worth watching.”

Ardanaiseig, on the shores of Loch Awe near Taynuilt, is one of Scotland’s top luxury hotels and regularly wins awards for its service and dining. It has been named intimate wedding hotel of the year five times and last year was named romantic hotel of the year.

In a statement, its managers said: “After 15 years at Ardanaiseig, Gary has decided to further his studies and plans to spend time working and visiting many of Europe’s finest restaurants. He will also be taking the opportunity to focus on his passion for foraging.”

Goldie’s sous chef Cornel Uys, who Goldie trained himself, has now taken over as head chef at the hotel. Uys said: “This is a really exciting opportunity for me and a really exciting time for Ardanaiseig. We just want to continue to produce great food. There are projects underway that we will be able to announce details of shortly.”

Twitter: @emmacowing