“As head chef of In Situ, I am responsible for managing and replicating at least 20 different chefs' and restaurants' dishes on one menu, which is a challenge in itself given different styles, techniques and ingredients.”
Ian won the Roux Scholarship in 2015 when he was 29 and did his stage at Benu in San Francisco under Corey Lee.
Born in Glasgow, Ian started his career as an apprentice at House for an Art Lover, a museum in Glasgow catering for functions and weddings. He went on to work at Etain, a modern French restaurant in Glasgow for a year, with Geoffry Smeddle. From there he joined Andrew Fairlie at his restaurant within the Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterader. Starting as a commis chef in 2007 he quickly progressed through the ranks to sous chef. He left Andrew Fairlie’s at the end of 2011 to move to London where he joined Claude Bosi as sous chef at the two-star Michelin restaurant Hibiscus (which closed in October 2016) where he was promoted to head chef within six months. It was while working at Hibiscus that he won the Roux Scholarship.
Ian has always worked hard to develop his craft as a chef by constantly seeking opportunities for experience, while with Andrew Fairlie he did stages at Tickets with Albert Adria, two-star Michelin Restaurant Sat Bains, at the two-star De Pastorale in Antwerp and at three-star restaurant De Leest in Holland.
In February 2017, Ian was part of the thought-provoking food waste pop-up, wastED, a collaboration between Selfridges London and New York chef Dan Barber. He also worked with Clare Smyth on the development for her new restaurant Core, which opened in August, 2017. In July 2017, Ian took the position of chef de cuisine at In Situ, located within the Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, and overseen by Chef Corey Lee. The main concept of In Situ is taking one dish from various restaurants throughout the world and rotating them on one menu. Like SFMOMA brings together a dynamic collection of artists, In Situ assembles a display of dishes from chefs and restaurants around the world.
Where did you do your stage?
I chose Benu in San Francisco as I believe it is a world class restaurant. I had always followed Corey Lee and the progression of Benu because his cuisine was unique, given his mostly French classical training. The cuisine at Benu is predominantly Korean, with American and French influences. I wanted to challenge myself and learn something completely new. I have always been interested in Asian flavours and techniques, and with Corey’s reputation in the industry it was the best place for me to go.
What did you cook in the final?
Turban of sole and salmon à la marinière. It was exciting and scary at the same time cooking such a classical dish that I had never even heard of, like most of the dishes in the Roux Scholarship finals. The biggest challenge is hoping that you’ve interpreted the dish correctly, and making sure the fish is cooked perfectly, as well as the fish mousse in the center.
How many times did you enter?
I won on my first time. I followed the scholarship each year before that and, having seen the calibre of chefs who had entered and won it, it was very important to me to get it right and win first time. Plus I never wanted to have to go through that pressure again! Full respect to the chefs who persisted and won after more than one attempt!!!
What do you remember most about the competition the year you won?
It was the last year Chef Michel Snr and Chef Albert were judging. It was a very surreal experience having them walking around the kitchen looking over your shoulder.
What advice would you give applicants?
Take time to write the recipe, check spelling, have a handful of people look over the recipe and give feedback. Costings should be accurate, and ensure the recipe isn’t over-complicated given the time restrictions. Also make sure you have time for the mystery basket.
Who are your culinary heroes?
The Roux family for what they have done for the industry; it is incredible what opportunities they give you for being a scholar, and it can be genuinely life-changing when you are associated with a great family. A personal one for me is Andrew Fairlie as he was the main reason I pursued the scholarship. He also sparked that initial drive in my career. I also admire Sat Bains for what he has achieved so far, he is definitely someone who has made his own path and unique style and never stops! Also Thomas Keller, Corey Lee, Joel Robuchon, Heston Blumenthal and Clare Smyth to name a few!
Tell us about your current role
My role is a lot different to most chef de cuisine or head chef roles, based on the concept of In Situ. I am responsible for managing and replicating at least 20 different chefs' and restaurants' dishes on one menu, which is a challenge in itself given different styles, techniques and ingredients. It means I have to be meticulously organised and disciplined to ensure I’m honoring the other chefs work and recipes.
What have been your career highlights so far?
Winning the scholarship! My first head chef job at Hibiscus with Claude Bosi London maintaining two Michelin stars. WastED London: rom initial r&d to planning and operating the six-week pop-up with Chef Dan Barber. Gaining a Michelin star at In Situ and retaining it each year... so far! Hosting the Michelin launch in San Francisco and cooking for all the chefs under one roof.