Last week saw the launch of a new initiative by the Scottish Government, the Provenance Toolkit. This toolkit has been designed as a Code of Practice for caterers, which clarifies the legal requirements and best practice guidelines for food and drink origin requirements on menus, providing clear, accurate and consistent info to consumers eating out.
Shirley and Eddie Spear are the owners of The Three Chimneys restaurant in Skye. Shirley spoke about the importance of Provenance to her business at the launch of the toolkit, saying:
“It is exactly 25 years since my crazy first night as chef at The Three Chimneys in remote, north west Skye, and I can say with my hand on my heart that those years have been devoted to promoting everything to do with Scottish food and Scotland’s fantastic culinary heritage.
My husband Eddie and I deliberately moved home to Scotland with a very firm intention in mind: to help to improve the reputation of eating out in Scotland and to do our bit to re-establish the country’s rightful place on the culinary world stage.
Scots have been cooking amazing food with the most fabulous produce, for generations before us; we just temporarily forgot how good we were at doing so and like so many things, we Scots lost all sense of pride and importance in recognising the ingredients reared, fished, grown and produced in our amazing country.
We also forgot what great cooks we have been in the past – especially women! Scottish kitchens had been run by marvellous women for generations. And provenance was the understated watchword of the Scottish kitchen over all these years. So where did Scotland lose the way?
We can blame the advent of supermarkets, mass production, over emphasis on exports, putting money making before healthy living, fast food, convenience shopping, working mums and all sorts of other aspects of modern life that we come to accept as ‘normal’ rather than retain respect in the roots and culture of our fabulous land.
Eddie and I come from very ordinary backgrounds with no specific training as chefs or entrepreneurial restaurateurs. But of one thing we are absolutely certain – our success is all about provenance. We have taken pride in sourcing ingredients locally and encouraging local growers and fishermen to take pride in their work and products too.
A restaurant’s menu is an important sales tool and our menu is spattered with the local names that are the source of our dishes. And all of this has been made easier since we first began, because now we have a fantastic community interest company in Skye and Lochalsh called Food Link. This is a model of how well we can link local suppliers with retailers operating throughout a wide and scattered area. In many ways, Skye and Lochalsh has led the way in Scotland in how well small businesses – particularly in a rural area – can succeed by working in partnership.
Not only is The Three Chimneys a good example of using Scottish provenance to augment our reputation. But, do you know, the public loves it! The vast majority of our customers are, in fact, Scottish, and our world-wide reputation built upon Scottish food and welcoming hospitality have helped us to build – and sustain – a successful business in one of the most remote, fragile areas of Scotland.
If we can do it, then everyone can! Taking pride in all things local and all things Scottish has been the making of The Three Chimneys and has made me very proud to be a Scottish chef too.
If there is anyone out there who does not believe that taking pride in Scottish ingredients is not going to benefit their business and personal lifestyle, then take a look at our story.
I truly hope that the provenance toolkit, this long needed, long overdue move by our Scottish government to widen and improve the use of our nation’s delicious, natural larder by giving it the business emphasis and recognition that it has long deserved, will be a massive driver towards a far better, healthier, wealthier, more sustainable Scotland.
After all – Wha’s Like Us?!”
Many thanks to Shirley for allowing us to share her story.