Right tools for the job

Kenny McMillan, of Macdonald Hotels & Resorts, was named executive chef of the year at the 2015 Scottish Hotel Awards. Your Jobs in Scotland caught up with him about his path to success and what drives his unstinting passion for the hospitality industry.

I could probably sum up my job in one word: diverse. Of all the aspects of my varied role, managing people has to be one of my greatest challenges and I am very fortunate to be surrounded by fantastic people.

Also, I am very proud that some of the people for whom I continue to have the greatest respect recruited me into the industry in the first place. Their encouragement and guidance has been a huge help along the way and is something I endeavour to mirror in my own work with up-and-coming chefs.

Kenny McMillan

I learned early on the benefits of being provided with a good, structured working environment and that having the right tools for the job creates a more comfortable and, therefore, more productive working environment.

This is something which remains high on the agenda for me and the importance of nurturing and encouraging people was underlined when Euan Walker, whom I mentored from 2007 until 2013, won Young Highland Chef of the Year in 2011.

Having joined the team at the New Drumossie Hotel, in Inverness, aged 16, Euan went on to become an excellent, well-rounded chef and, as well as picking up this prestigious award, he has since become head chef at Drumossie.

Watching Euan and others grow and progress their careers in the hospitality sector is both incredibly satisfying on a personal level and serves to stand the industry in good stead for the future as we see top-notch talent coming through the ranks.

In 2009, I was appointed to the role of regional executive chef for Macdonald Hotels & Resorts and became responsible for a portfolio of unique venues, namely the New Drumossie Hotel in Inverness, Norwood Hall Hotel in Aberdeen and Pittodrie House Hotel near Inverurie.

Kenny at Norwood Hall

Initially based in Inverness, I moved to working from Aberdeen in 2013 to oversee the development of the new kitchen at Norwood Hall Hotel.

This exciting task involved working alongside the project manager and sub-contractors to oversee the facility’s evolution into one of the best kitchens in Aberdeen, now headed by award-winning chef Neil Ireland.

It may be less than a year since the kitchen was refurbished but we have already achieved two-rosette status and that speaks volumes about what Neil and his team have been able to achieve, thanks in part to having the right working environment.

At Norwood Hall Hotel, as in any culinary setting, the menu is one of the key elements for customers and I believe in giving the customer what they want rather than the chef cooking to his own tastes – or to satisfy his own ego.

Designing menus is a part of my job which I enjoy greatly and here too diversity is the order of the day.

Each property has its own unique characteristics which must be reflected in the food offering and that in itself takes diversity to a whole new level – from wedding breakfast menus, to conference dining options and banqueting, and from festive packages to award-winning restaurant cuisine.

My love of creating dishes of the highest quality sits in exact parallel with Macdonald Hotels & Resorts’ comprehensive passion for sourcing quality ingredients, from local fish suppliers who send us the freshest fish and shellfish to Scotch beef, lamb and game, our chefs can draw on a colourful palette when creating their dishes – the right tools for the job.

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