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Virgin Hotels Edinburgh executive chef, Steven Wilson, answers our Flavour Profile Q&A

This chef loves Scottish seafood and wants to cook for Jay Rayner

Published: August 1, 2022
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What’s your favourite ingredient?

Any type of Scottish seafood – Scotland has such a great larder on its doorstep so it’s a pleasure to cook with. There’s an abundance of fish and seafood available and it’s always super fresh so you can cook it really simply and create incredible dishes.

Do you have a guilty food pleasure?

Japanese mayo. I often use it on burgers and I swear it’s the best mayonnaise you’ll ever taste.

Tell us about your first food memory

Visiting my gran at her home. She was always in the kitchen cooking, making incredible pies. Everything was cooked from fresh back then so when I think of her it reminds me of really great homemade food that was cooked with love.

What’s your favourite Scottish restaurant, deli or cafe?

I’ve got two favourites in Edinburgh. Ondine is my first choice as everything is executed perfectly. Out of some of the newer openings, I really like Ka Pao. Their food is the most authentic Thai I’ve had since I left Asia so it’s safe to say I was impressed.

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What would be your last supper?

My mum’s shepherd’s pie – it’s the ultimate comfort food and takes me back home whenever I taste it. 

Starter or pudding? 

Starter without a doubt. I don’t have a sweet tooth and I even used to give my selection boxes away as a kid.

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Do you have any food hates?

I don’t like when people do the simple things wrong. I think it’s inexcusable. Once you’ve mastered those, you can go on to create pretty much anything from there. I’d always tell any chefs starting out to perfect the basics first.

What starters, main and dessert would be served at your dream dinner party and who would you invite?

I’d serve a few of my favourite meals, the things I find myself ordering repeatedly or often make for myself. For starter I’d choose simple grilled scallops with brown butter and lemon.  As the main course, I’d go for a great bit of Scottish beef, simply grilled with a nice salad, duck fat chips and a bearnaise sauce. My favourite dessert is a good apple crumble with ice cream.

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To join me for dinner I would firstly choose Anthony Bourdain. He was a chef’s chef, knowledgeable about the industry, a great storyteller and would make the perfect dinner guest. Another guest I’d love to invite is Alex Ferguson because I used to cook for him at The Lowry Hotel, where I worked, and he was always generous with tickets. I’d also invite critic Jay Rayner as he’s always got a lot to say about a meal. I like being challenged and would be keen to impress him.

What's your favourite geographical foodie destination?

Japan, as the food there is on another level. The flavours and originality there can’t be emulated, it must be experienced to be believed. It’s also so diverse from one region to the next and there is attention to detail in every aspect from the farm to the plate. Japanese mayo is one part of that food culture I’ve brought home and use all the time.

Wilson looks after Virgin Hotel Edinburgh's Commons Club restaurant. The venue will be opening another restaurant, Eve, in September 2022

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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