James will head up the luxury hotel’s AA Rosette awarded Garden Restaurant and Rafters Bar & Bistro.
The four-star hotel, which has a spectacular setting with majestic views of Loch Ard, has just completed a full redesign and refurbishment and boasts 55 luxurious bedrooms, as well as 65 self-catering lodges.
James, who describes his cooking as classical and simple using the finest local ingredients and with a ‘quirky twist’, will work with the established team to develop new restaurant menus based on seasonality and locality as well as indulgent afternoon teas.
With over 30 years’ experience as a chef, Glasgow-born James has honed his culinary skills across the globe including in Melbourne, Australia where he lived with his wife and two young children for seven years.
Since returning to Scotland in 2013, James has continued to climb the gastronomic ladder and has held executive chef positions in several establishments, including Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Mercure Aberdeen Ardoe House Hotel and Dalmahoy Hotel & Country Club in Edinburgh. He has also previously worked at Macdonald Pittodrie House in Aberdeenshire.
James McCulloch Thomson said: “Macdonald Forest Hills Hotel & Spa has an iconic Scottish setting and it is a true honour to be appointed as executive head chef. It’s an exciting time in the hotel’s history, with the property just completing a major transformation and this role was just too good an opportunity to miss.”
On his cookery style James continued; “My style of food offers a simple and lighter way to eat, yet with multi-layered flavour and texture combinations and the odd bit of quirkiness.
"For me basing the menus around Scotland’s larder is key. It’s by far and away the best there is and I’ll be focusing on seasonality and using the best suppliers and producers, from the fishermen and farmers to gamekeepers.
“My inspiration comes in so many ways on a daily basis, from seeing something for myself to someone showing me something which evolves from an idea into a dish. My favourite ingredients by far are langoustines and scallops, simply grilled with butter and served with fresh lemon. Simplicity at its best!”
James also enjoys passing on his culinary knowledge and experience to enthusiastic young people starting out in their careers.
He said: “The thing I get most pleasure out of is teaching and watching young chefs grow and progress within the industry.
"It gives me a great sense of pride to see them follow their own paths and the best advice I can give is to come in to the trade with the right attitude and the desire to learn and then adapt and dream big.”
Andrew Deighan, general manager at Macdonald Forest Hills Hotel & Spa said: “James is an outstanding chef and we are very excited to have him join our team. We are looking forward to welcoming our regular guests as well as new customers to experience his fantastic dishes.
"James will be working closely with the teams here and our suppliers to develop new menus and fresh ideas for our restaurants.”
The news follows the announcement that the hotel has undergone a £3.5m redesign and refurbishment.