The luxury Perthshire country hotel and estate, Gleneagles, is celebrating the success of its workforce as two are named in top industry awards.
Estate sous chef Callum Roberts was acknowledged with a highly coveted Acorn Award and Junior sous chef Peter Meechan won the 2020 Young Chef of the Year.
Peter who was part of the Andrew Fairlie scholarship scheme, took took part in a live final in May 2021 in small groups at four venues in London.
He was named as Young Chef of the Year on 22 July along with the Young Waiter of the Year, with each winning a Mercedes- Benz A Class including insurance for a year.
Peter, who is from Langlees in Falkirk, started his chef career at 16 with an ETU training course through Falkirk council which lead onto a Modern Apprenticeship at the Inchyra hotel in Polmont.
He joined Gleneagles in 2017 and was shortlisted for the Andrew Fairlie scholarship finals in 2019.
“I feel so lucky to get paid to do what I love,” Peter said. “I’ve always enjoyed cooking but I never contemplated becoming a chef until I was about 16; before that, like most boys that age, my dream was to become a premiership footballer.
“I wasn’t academic at school and hated sitting at a desk, but I had a great home economics teacher who encouraged me to think seriously about a professional culinary career – I enjoyed how practical and creative her classes were. I also grew up in a huge family – I’ve got six brothers and sisters – so we all had to get stuck in to help cook dinner every night. It was a great training ground – you might say I’ve been a chef my whole life.
“Our guests have the highest expectations which pushes me to deliver my very best on every shift. You’re continually refining your skills, developing as a professional, being pushed out of your comfort zone and learning every day. I’m like a sponge soaking it all up – I love it.”
The pressure and pace are Peter’s favourite aspects of culinary. “When it’s a Saturday night, and the restaurant’s fully booked, you know you’re a part of a team that’s working together to carry off a mammoth and seamless operation – there’s a buzz and adrenalin rush that comes with it that’s just incredible. You feel so proud you’ve contributed to making 250 guests feel happy – the sense of achievement is immensely rewarding.”
Theo Randall, one of the competition’s culinary judges, said: "It was a pleasure to judge YCYW again and made me proud of how much young talent is bursting through at such a difficult time.
"Peter Meechan is a natural cook with outstanding ability, the dishes he created were not just perfectly cooked, but the skill he showed in preparation was a joy to watch.
"He is currently working at the legendary Gleneagles hotel, which has helped develop another star of the future. I wish Peter all the success he deserves and look forward to seeing this talented young man reach the pinnacle of our beloved industry."
Peter added: “I didn’t expect this – it feels completely surreal. It’s been humbling to compete alongside the country’s most talented young culinary stars, all of whom I admire and respect. So, to win is a great honour which gives me the confidence to continue learning and developing as a chef.”
Peter recognises that the ambition, passion and dedication he once hoped to channel into sport have stood him in good stead for a successful culinary career. “There are actually many similarities between the life of a premiership footballer and a chef,” he said.
“You can hone your craft within some of the best teams in the world; you perform your best when you work collaboratively and play to everyone’s strengths; you can travel the world and learn from the greats; you’re under intense pressure to perform to the highest standard; and at full time you want the audience to leave with big smiles on their faces. I’ve taken the career path I always wanted; it’s just a different kind of match.”
As well as Peter's awards, Callum Roberts was named in the Acorn Awards, which is known as the 'top 30 under 30'.
The Acorn Awards by The Caterer recognise the brightest prospects in the UK hospitality industry.
Callum has been part of the culinary team at Gleneagles since 2013, first joining as a commis chef, before climbing the ranks to chef de partie, sous chef and most recently, estate sous chef.
Both Peter and Callum were part of the team that relaunched Gleneagles’ fine dining restaurant, The Strathearn, in 2019.
Callum and Peter's achievement builds on a long history of culinary excellence for Gleneagles and a recent string of successes for the kitchen team.
Head pastry chef Andrew Mackay also joined the Acorn Awards hall of fame last year as one of the most promising rising stars in the industry, whilst executive chef, Simon Attridge – formerly head chef at the Michelin-starred Drakes on the Pond and Heston Blumenthal’s Riverside Brasserie – was crowed Hotel Chef of the Year in the 2019 Hotel Cateys.
Callum said: “I still get pre-service nerves after all these years, then the adrenalin kicks in, and you’re absolutely buzzing to be working as part of a phenomenal team of chefs, in one of the busiest kitchens, in one of the most iconic hotels in the world – it’s an amazing feeling.”
Gleneagles’ Managing Director, Conor O’Leary, added: “We’re delighted at Callum’s outstanding achievement, which reflects his unwavering dedication to both Gleneagles and the culinary arts since he joined our team eight years ago.
“Our 100-strong kitchen brigade works passionately and tirelessly throughout the year to provide our guests with outstanding dining experiences.
"We’re so proud to see that talent and spirit of professional excellence recognised in Calum’s award, as well as a host of accolades won by the team over the past 12 months.”