Under the grill: Chef Dean Banks from HAAR

Scotsman food and drink are delighted to talk to chef Dean Banks about, HAAR at home, a national delivery service and his newest venture for our Under the grill feature and quick-fire Q & A.

Published 26th Jun 2020
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

Dean Banks, chef director at HAAR restaurant in St Andrews is one of Scotland's top chefs, or his fans might know him as a finalist on BBC Two's Masterchef: The Professionals 2018.

Born and brought up in Arbroath, Dean said: " I'm extremely proud of my home town, it is just an amazing place with lots of history.  The seafood is great and not to mention the Arbroath Smokie, plus all the soft fruits from Angus, which are fantastic. It is just a smashing foodie place."

Dean stands proudly outside HAAR restaurant in St Andrews

His youth was spent outdoors making dens, swimming in burns and exploring nature trails but with his first catering job was at Peggy's corner shop, making hot bacon rolls for workmen as a teenager.

After a stint at college and a spell at Rick Stein's Seafood restaurant, he headed to Europe and the exclusive world of private catering in Verbier.

Dean caught the travel bug and the world really did became his oyster, as he worked in Tanzania at the exclusive Tides Lodge. He tells us a highlight of this time was climbing Kilimanjaro in his downtime.

As a result of his extensive travels he really found his love for fusion cuisine, and has been passionate about utilising the very best of Scottish produce but adding a culinary twist, ever since.

One of Dean's dishes. Photograph: Grant Anderson - www.grantanderson.me

After his travels, he returned to Scotland to work as chef de partie in the Number One restaurant in The Balmoral amongst other places, but he always keen to open his own restaurant, HAARin ST Andrews, which he did in 2019 to much acclaim.

Dean explains further: "my restaurant is my everything and my baby."

Almost one year on and Dean saw the rug pulled from under his feet, with coronavirus lockdown hitting hard, he says: "after two weeks feeling the lowest of the low, sitting at home sad and depressed.

"I realised that I had to adapt and survive, business went from the best it has ever been in February, with trade levels as brisk as in August, which is the height of our season to nothing overnight. We now offer a click and collect service from the restaurant, also delivering to Glasgow and Edinburgh"

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He has also seized on a gap in the nationwide market for providing restaurant-quality easy to prepare food for people to cook in their homes, called HAAR at home.

There is no compromising on quality ingredients, you simply order mid-week for weekend delivery and then just follow the simple instructions, heating as directed. You can take all the glory, by recreating restaurant-quality dining in your own home.

He is currently offering a Luxury Lobster & Crab Box £60.00 and The Best of Land & Sea Box £90 with a range of champagne.

The Best of Land & Sea Box £90

As a result of Covid -19, Dean said: "the business is stronger, and good things have come from adapting, with 2.5 tonnes of deliveries last week a total of around 400 lobster meals heading out all over the country, from the tip of Scotland down to Cornwall, London and Wales.

"I'm definitely seeing light at the end of the tunnel and a secure future for the restaurant."

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And finally?

This year in September, he has plans to fulfil yet another childhood ambition by opening a high-end chip shop in St Andrews, which he exclusively reveals to Scotsman food and drink, will be named HAARbour.

Under the grill Q&A

Describe your cooking style? and why are you passionate about it? Traditional, French-inspired fusion etc.

“Modern fusion. I try to modernise Scottish cuisine, by bringing back fusion elements. I have learned on my extensive travels during the past nine to ten years, you get to pick up things from street vendors in India and Thailand and bring those ideas back to Scotland. ”

What was your first job in the industry? Plus where were you before?

“Peggy's corner shop in Arbroath when I was thirteen, I used to make hot-filled bacon and black pudding rolls for workmen. I have fond memories of Peggy, she used to let me wear her husband's greengrocer jacket so I'd feel important, I learned about a good work ethic from there”

Favourite spice? And what dish/recipe would you suggest using it in? 

“Sichuan pepper, which has an amazing depth of flavour, which is almost floral but completely unlike black pepper. I'd use it to season my rib-eye steak dish along with some fennel, coriander and Maldon sea salt ”

Are you sweet or sour? So is it all peace and harmony in your kitchen or do the pots and pans fly? 

“I have my moments however I also make sure my staff are well looked after. I'm the first person to apologise if I'm in the wrong, but there will always be stress during busy service, and you need to think about how to get over the hiccup, quickly”

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What little things annoy you?

“My pet hate in the kitchen is when someone finishes using the last of the roll of Blue cloth and doesn't refill the dispenser. I also like cleanliness, I don't like dirty surfaces or crumbs on the table”

What is popular in your kitchen right now? 

“My signature HAAR at home Lobster dish, we are currently selling around 400 a week. You get a whole dressed Lobster (Mirin butter sauce), with Dressed crab Sides : Seared Sprouting Broccoli and smoked mayonnaise, Seaweed Potatoes and Asian salad as well as a fresh loaf of bread.”

Tea or Coffee? Is it Darjeeling darling or bitter Colombian? What’s your brew and how you like to drink it? Camomile, Milky brew or builders elaborate, please?

“It depends on the day, but I usually start off with a cappuccino coffee, with lots of frothy milk then it is green tea and sparkling water for the rest of the day.”

Everyone has one at least one guilty food pleasure, so what do you love but are too embarrassed to admit?

“I can't resist a good pie and a yum yum on the beach, with a Tunnock's teacake”

Who is your favourite chef? Plus everyone has a food hero/ local supplier, who is yours and why?

“That would be Rick Stein, I worked for him when I was 18 years old straight out of college in Cornwall at his  Seafood Restaurant, I love everything about him, his ethos, style. I'm still good friends with Jack, his son”

"The local veg champions in Fife are Falkland kitchen farm & garden who provide us with our organic fruit and vegetables they even work with us to grow specific varieties for the restaurant"

"also Damien, our lobster fisherman who delivers lobsters straight off his boat for the restaurant and HAAR at home"

Fantasy dinner party guests? and what would you cook for them?

“That's a good question, it would be Einstein so I could pick his brains and then Andrew Fairlie, just so I could see what he thought of my lobster dish, which has been inspired by his famous signature dish, of locally sourced lobster smoked over whisky barrel chips.”

I don’t like…or I’d rather not eat……

“Hollandaise sauce in a packet, absolutely awful”

Another showcase dish from Dean Banks. Photograph: Grant Anderson - www.grantanderson.me




127 North St, St Andrews

KY16 9AG



Catriona is a freelance writer based in the Scottish Borders, and a nominee for Food and Drink writer at this year's Scottish Press Awards.
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