Derek Johnstone, MasterChef winner and head chef at Rusacks, St Andrews, answers our Flavour Profile questions

This chef looks after three restaurants at Rusacks hotel

Published 15th Nov 2021
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

What’s your favourite ingredient?

I love using good quality vinegar in my kitchen and we always make our own with left over white and red wine. For me a good plate of food can be transformed into an excellent plate of food by using the correct level of acidity. We flavour our vinegar with everything from tarragon to sea buckthorn, seaweed and even avocados.

Do you have a guilty food pleasure?

Definitely a good quality and hot Indian-style curry. As a family treat, when I was young, we would order Indian takeaway once per month. I absolutely loved it and really looked forward to it. The best curries I get to try now are prepared by my sous chef, Saga. He grew up in New Delhi, so his curries are incredible and the whole team really enjoy it when it is his turn to prepare the staff meal.

Tell us about your first food memory?

Believe it or not I don’t really have an enjoyable food memory from childhood. I just remember bland barley broths, over-cooked tripe and liver that still haunt me to this day. Due to this, at a young age I made the decision that I was going to learn how to cook. I had no idea that it would become my profession.

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

I recently moved to St Andrews and discovered Jannetta’s Gelateria. It’s an institution that serves fantastic ice creams and desserts. I also enjoy popping into JP Deli in North Berwick after we’ve had a long walk on the beach with our dogs.

What would be your last supper?

Pan roasted diver caught scallop to start, then a roe deer wellington for the main course and, for pudding, an apple tart tatin. Yum!

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Starter or pudding?

Starter, I prefer savoury over sweet every time.

Do you have any food hates?

Andouillette sausage and tripe are two things I will never eat again. I tried both when visiting Paris and I could not eat more than one bite.

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

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We’d start with a selection of Scottish fish and shellfish, especially langoustines and scallops as I love them. For the main course we would have grass-fed Scotch beef and, to finish, a hot raspberry souffle. I have not seen my friends and family nearly enough over the past two years due to the pandemic and work commitments, so I would love to share a meal with them and have time to catch up over great food and wine.

What’s your favourite geographical foodie destination

I visited Iceland a couple of years ago and loved the style over there. I also love Singapore, as it has an amazing offering and there are plenty of high-end restaurants which I am desperate to revisit when time allows, including Zen which has just been awarded three Michelin stars.

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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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