The Michelin Man
Published: 12 Jan 2017
From not knowing his way around a menu to creating Michelin star fine dining dishes, Graham Campbell’s career has been extraordinary.
Graham Campbell. Remember the name because in the future, you’ll be hearing a lot more about this chef.
Aged 33, he’s already achieved the sort of extraordinary career success most of us can only dream about finding. At 25, he became the youngest person in Scotland to receive a Michelin star.
Originally from Oban he’s now based in Dundee, where he is the director and head chef at the award-winning Castlehill Restaurant, near the new V&A museum.
By the time he was knee high to an oven, he knew he wanted to be a chef. He describes his first job as being ‘the lowest of the low’ at the Caledonian Hotel in his hometown, but he quickly progressed to sous chef before moving to Rochdale for a position at Andrew Nutter’s eponymous restaurant.
“There was finely presented food – loads of produce and dishes that I had just never seen before,” said Graham. “I had to make a lemon tart and I didn’t have a clue how to do it.”
Moving on to Paul Heathcote’s Longridge, he worked under head chef James Holah, previously sous chef at Claridge’s, and it was here that his fine dining career began in earnest.
“That was a real eye opener,” he said. “I got introduced to many new foods; I had never seen foie gras or mushroom ravioli, I had no idea that any of that existed. They put me on larder and asked me to make an amuse bouche – I had no idea what that was.”
Within three months he was sous chef.
In 2008 he moved back to Scotland, becoming head chef at The Ballachulish House near Fort William. Cooking a small menu for the restaurant’s select clientele, he took everything he had learned from Heathcote’s and made it his own.
The following year, aged just 25 and much to his surprise, he was awarded a Michelin star for his food.
Michelin described it as “precise, well presented and flavourful” and highlighted his velouté of artichokes with girolles and truffle, his roast duck, pomme dauphinoise, foie gras and cherry sauce, and his strawberry parfait and salad with raspberry sorbet.
The restaurant closed shortly after, but instead of being downhearted, this motivated him to stretch his wings.
“‘That is when I started buying all the books and researching, and since then it has always been about me and what I do,” said Graham. “'I dabble and experiment with flavours.”
Stints running the kitchens at the Lake of Menteith Hotel in Perthshire and The Monastery in Manchester followed, where he cooked bold, flavour-rich dishes such as Chilled pea velouté with fennel sorbet and poached apricots, Confit belly of pork stuffed with black pudding with braised red cabbage, mash and cider jus, and kumquat panettone with orange blossom panna cotta and confit kumquats.
In 2015, Graham competed in the massively popular TV show, The Great British Menu. This was his first time in the competition where he took inspiration from the values of the WI, focusing mainly on community, family and sharing, and drawing on personal experiences from his childhood to convey that.
“It was an incredible experience being in the Great British Menu kitchen competing with other really talented chefs. The pressure and stress was something else,” said Graham.
His culinary success continues as he now part owns the award-winning Castlehill Restaurant, in Dundee, and having invested in the restaurant, he now has the freedom to create outstanding, sensory-led dishes from Scottish sea trout with beetroot jelly and lobster blancmange to a malt meringue dessert with sorbet, olive oil and black pepper.