Name: Sean Kelly
Current Position: Owner and Chef at Station Road Restaurant at The Lovat Hotel, Loch Ness
Tell us about your current role
I own the hotel with my wife Caroline, I look after back of house and she does everything else. We have a team of 8 in the kitchen that look after 2 dining rooms and I oversee both but we have a good team so my job is quite easy.
How long have you been cooking professionally?
Over 20 years already.
Where did you train to cook?
I did my City & Guilds 706/1 and 2 at Thurrock in Essex, then did my 706/3 kitchen/larder at Westminster College. After working in Essex for a number of years I then moved to France for several years before coming to Scotland nearly 8 years ago.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
I like to keep things simple, food that people recognise.
Do you have a “signature dish”, or a favourite dish you enjoy cooking?
A signature dish? Not really. I don’t really have a favourite dish to cook although I enjoy working in pastry and I love working with game and the ‘cheaper’ cuts of meat.
Do you have a favourite ingredient?
I have lots! Truffle, foie gras, pigs trotter, asparagus, ceps to name just a few.
Do you have a favourite local supplier?
The salt aged beef form Yorkes of Dundee is amazing as is the pork and hogget from a local croft called Lyne Mhor..
Is there another chef you admire?
Lots! There are so many great chefs in the UK and abroad it’s difficult to name one or two but where would we be today without the Roux brothers?
Who is the best chef you’ve worked with and why?
A chef called Louis Grondard who had 2 Michelin stars back in the day. He was a disciplinarian so you learnt to be organised and precise, he also had a passion for great ingredients and wine!
What is the one piece of kitchen equipment you could not live without?
Our blast chiller.
What is the best restaurant you have eaten at?
That’s a tough one because I have been lucky enough to eat in some great places but Pure C stands out as being really memorable.
Should customers be made to pay for late cancellations?
Again that’s a difficult one, I’m not really in favour of doing it but I think if your business is suffering because of it then maybe that’s one solution.
What frustrates you most about customers?
Asking for something that isn’t on the menu.
What is your most awkward/demanding customer experience?
It wasn’t awkward or demanding but a bit odd. We had a lady a while back that asked for a portion of salmon raw with nothing else on the plate. I love sushi but a large fillet of raw salmon with nothing on it?! Strange but she said she loved it!
Do you look at TripAdvisor reviews?
I get an alert on my phone so I can’t avoid it. TripAdvisor is here to stay so you have to embrace it. We all make mistakes so you have to expect the odd bad review but if you have a lot of bad reviews I’d say you’re doing something wrong.
What career advice would you give to your 15-year old self?
Get into the best places you can, work hard, eat at the best places you can afford and learn as much as you can.
What would be your “last request” dish?
Without a doubt roast dinner, probably lamb or pork leg.
What is your favourite cookbook?
I have about 1500 cookery books so that’s a difficult one, but the most thumbed recent book is Eleven Madison Park.
You have more than 25,000 Instagram followers.
How have you achieved this? I post about 5 times a week and tag people that may share my posts.
Does having so many followers help you promote your restaurant and secure more bookings?
We get a few bookings from it but what’s really interesting is that I get quite a lot of chefs wanting to do a stage here or ask if we have any positions in the kitchen.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your job?
Keeping on top of the food prices as an example butter was £30 a box last year and £40 this year – It can make a big difference to your bottom line if your not on top of it.
What’s the worst kitchen injury you’ve had?
Nothing serious apart from the odd cut and burn.
And finally, what is your career ambition?
We would like to move station road and focus purely on that.