Tom Kitchin After Hours

The Scottish chef holds a Michelin star for his Edinburgh restaurant The Kitchin, which operates by the mantra ‘from nature to plate’. He talks to Alicia Miller about teenage fishing trips and Swedish shots

I fell in love with the adrenalin of the kitchen

When I was 13 years old, I took a job washing dishes at my local pub, the Lomond Country Inn in Kinnesswood, north of Edinburgh. I left school at 16, and worked my way up through the sections there: starters, puddings and so on. Sadly it’s closed now, but locals keep sending over the buying plan to try to get me back in there!

Mackerel is my holy grail of fish.

I think it goes back to when I was growing up and we took holidays on the west coast of Scotland. My dad had a caravan and we would drive around – at the time I hated it, I think it was a moody teenager thing. We would go mackerel fishing, and whatever fish we caught we’d cook on the barbecue with lemon and thyme.

Pierre Koffmann is like a father to me

I studied under him at La Tante Claire for two and a half years. We’re friends now, but it wasn’t always that way; our relationship was built on respect, which is so important in this industry. I feel responsible for passing on the skills he’s taught me to the next generation. My other mentors have also been wonderful. I trained under Guy Savoy in Paris ( and Alain Ducasse at Le Louis XV in Monte Carlo ( – recently I returned and cooked at his 25th anniversary celebration, which was amazing.

The trouble with British chefs

Is they’re too caught up with prestige. In France, it’s about the joy of eating. The regionality is amazing – each village has its own breads, cheese, wines, saucisson. In Nice, I love La Merenda (; the chef had two Michelin stars and gave them up to cook what he wants – such as perfect tête de veau. When in Paris, I head for iconic brasserie La Régalade (00 33 145 456 858) – their pâté de campagne is the best. For French food in London, my favourite is probably La Petite Maison (; the chef is a friend.

Wherever I go, I need to see the markets.

In Sicily, they are amazing. You eat straight from the stalls – I had the sweetest, ripest, squishy peach, the kind where the juice dribbles all down your top. Throughout the whole world life revolves around the local market; why can’t we live like that here?

My wife is Swedish

and the food scene there is great, particularly at midsummer when they celebrate with platters of crayfish, and all sorts of soused herrings – honey mustard, or yoghurt and dill. They also prepare home-made schnapps; the first time I went to meet my wife’s family they plied me with shots. I discovered later I wasn’t meant to drink them all, only take a small sip! When it comes to the restaurants there, you’ve got to try Stockholm’s Restaurang Volt (

A trip to Thailand really opened my eyes.

The seafood is so fresh, and the way they use fish sauce rather than salt was inspiring. I took a cookery class – we watched tiger prawns being caught, then prepared them with the finest Thai dressing. That’s my idea of a dream holiday.

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