Andrew Fairlie and his restaurant showed Scotland what can be achieved, writes Stephen Jardine.
Restaurant Andrew Fairlie seats just 50 guests. So why did the news of his death trend on social media and produce tributes from right across Scottish public life?
How can something so exclusive and small have touched so many people? The answer is that Andrew Fairlie and his restaurant showed Scotland what can be achieved.
When he was born, his homeland was a deep-fried joke in the world of food and drink. He led us out of that darkness and into the light of world attention by taking our produce and showing everyone what can be done with it.
His restaurant at Gleneagles achieved two Michelin stars, a level of perfection few of us can hope to reach in any walk of life. The Sunday Times also named it the best restaurant in the UK.
Let that sink in: the best restaurant in Britain was not a caviar and champagne playground in Mayfair but a place in Perthshire right on our doorstep.
Such accolades are fine but only if you can deliver the goods every single service.
Some Michelin chefs burn bright and then disappear. No wonder – the pressure is relentless. When customers are paying top prices and every guest could be a critic or inspector, there is nowhere to hide. I once asked Andrew if that fazed him. No, we just do what we do, was his reply.
Since 2001, his restaurant has served the very best food in Scotland, day in day out. Fifty covers doesn’t sound a lot, but over 18 years that is more than 200,000 customers. Some were rich and successful, from the Queen and world leaders at the G8 summit to the biggest names of golf at the Ryder Cup,
But every guest in his restaurant was treated in exactly the same way, and down the years lots of people saved very hard for one chance to eat Andrew’s food for birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions. He believed serving those customers was a privilege.
So, he raised the bar in terms of how Scottish food is perceived – but he also leaves a huge legacy from behind the scenes.
Andrew’s kitchen at Gleneagles was quiet, controlled, focused and highly skilled. Every aspiring young chef in Scotland wanted to spend time there. Never forgetting his roots as the first Roux scholar, Andrew always made time for them.
As they moved on, they took with them the skills and passion they learned in his kitchen. They are his legacy.
Andrew Fairlie was the greatest Scotsman ever to set foot in a kitchen. He showed us we can be the best and still be kind, generous and compassionate and do all that here. We are all the poorer for his passing.
Stephen Jardine writes a food column for The Scotsman every Saturday