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Q&A with Castlehill's new Michelin star chef Graham Campbell

Q&A with Castlehill's new Michelin star chef Graham Campbell

In yet another foodie coup for Dundee, Scotland's youngest-ever Michelin star chef has just taken over at Castlehill.

Graham Campbell, now 32, picked up the prestigious cooking award at the age of 25, while working at Ballachulish House, near Fort William.

A man in demand, the Oban-born chef has also recently appeared on the BBC Two programme the Great British Menu, which sees the nation's top chefs compete for the chance to cook a four-course banquet for a high-profile figure.

But, like its new head chef, Castlehill is familiar with winning awards - it was the first independent restaurant in Dundee to secure a coveted AA two-rosette accolade within six months of opening.

Now, Graham has pledged to take Castlehill to the next level, and he has told STV that he hopes to win Dundee its first ever Michelin star.

Had you heard about Castlehill before you took the job?

"Of course I had heard of it and to be honest, I just thought, 'Why not take something that’s good and make it even better?'

"At the end of the day it’s not just about the food, its about the customers, and we’re all about the customers. Castlehill has a good customer base, and we want to keep that and if we can get more recurring customers then even better.

"Castlehill is certainly already the best restaurant in Dundee and I want to make it even better. But it’s the customers that make the restaurant. You can have the best chef in the world but if you've got no customers, what is the point?"

Castlehill puts an emphasis on working with Scotland’s natural larder, will this suit you?

"Oh yes, I’m all about local and all about Scottish food. I do a lot of foraging myself, it's just nice to disappear into the woods to find weird and wonderful stuff.

"So yes, local ingredients all the way - but only if it’s good. I don't use stuff just because it’s local, it has to be a good product. You could have a restaurant next to a farm but if the farmer is feeding his cow rubbish then it won't taste very good."

  (Castlehill)
via STV via STV

Will things at the restaurant be different under your guidance?

"Well, I’m going put my own twist on things, just based on things I've learnt over the years, and bring that to the menu. We won’t be stupidly priced - that side of things will be the same as before as I don’t want to scare people away. It won’t be £70 a head.

"I'll be bringing my own take on the food. The combinations that I do are a bit different - I’m not a chicken, mash and green beans kind of guy. I know restaurants serve this but I always 'think why would you pay somebody to do that when you can do it at home?'

"Don't get me wrong, I still want to do things that people will eat I just think the you've got to taste the main ingredient; scallops will taste like scallops and venison like venison - you still want the core taste of the main ingredient.

"Basically, we still want to do the same thing and give the customers the same experience that they have enjoyed, but hopefully also take it up a notch."

Major restaurant accolade is a culinary first for Dundee's Castlehill

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Dundee’s dining scene has seen some big improvements lately, did this feature in your decision to join Castlehill?

"Dundee is up-and-coming as it is - I’m not from there but you can already see that and it’s starting to get more foodie. A lot of people from Edinburgh and Glasgow go out specifically for nice meals and I feel Dundee is getting more that way.

"People want to come out for nice meals and a bottle of wine and they don’t want to do it outside Dundee. There are a lot of places out there and if they’re better than you, they’ll steal the customers but I’d say Dundee is on its way up."

What are your goals for the restaurant?

"Of course, I want a Michelin star again - it's every chef's dream to get one. And to get one in Dundee would really put it on the map. I have achieved it before but I haven’t stayed in a place long enough elsewhere for various reasons to carry it through again.

"Castlehill is a restaurant and I’m used to working in hotels where you have to worry about breakfast, seating numbers, lunch - all that. At Castlehill it's just food so that's a lot better for me.

"I’d love to get a Mitchell star but at the end of the day it’s all about customers."

When is your first day?

"I start next Tuesday but I'll be going in on the Monday before just to start prepping and make sure everything is in order, then I'll be starting on Tuesday."

Castlehill's owner Paul McMillan is excited by his new chef and is confident Graham will improve things.

He said: “We already have an amazing restaurant, but Graham can take us to a higher level. I’m so excited that we have attracted a chef of his ability and can’t wait until we reopen.”

The restaurant is currently closed but will reopen on Tuesday, August 11, with a new menu.

The Michelin guide has been published for more than one hundred years and Michelin stars are generally seen as one of the most prestigious awards a restaurant can win.

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