Food & Drink

Chef’s Table: Ross Cochrane

Rothesay Rooms head chef Ross Cochrane snapped up the title of National Game Chef of the Year 2019 with his wild duck dish. He tells us how to tackle a Christmas game roast and gives us his top Scottish restaurant recommendations.

Ross Cochrane, head chef at The Rothesay Rooms, Ballater

Why are you so passionate about working with game?

Game – duck in particular ­– has always been one of my favourite meats to work with. It’s so versatile in terms of utilising the whole bird ‒ leg, breast, heart, and liver ‒ and all the elements can be standalone dishes that wow with flavour.

Game was a firm favourite on Christmas tables until turkey swooped in. Is that simply because it’s easier to cook?

Turkey is an easier bird to cook, mainly because it has to be cooked all the way through. There’s really only one way to cook it, unlike some game, which can be cooked for different lengths of time and at different temperatures. However, there are now so many fantastic books and step-by-step guides to cooking game that it’s a lot easier and more enjoyable to cook than it was previously.

How would you suggest someone tackles their first Christmas game roast?

I would recommend duck. Go and see your local butcher and ask for an oven-ready bird. Depending on the weight, they will advise on cooking time, temperature and testing time. I would serve the duck with some roast potatoes, red cabbage and honey roast carrots.

If you could have your pick of any chef to cook your family’s Christmas dinner, who would it be and why?

Marco Pierre White. He is regarded as one of the best chefs in the UK and is a culinary hero of mine. My family would definitely appreciate his dry sense of humour along with his no-nonsense approach to cooking.

Describe the Rothesay Rooms dining experience.

The Rothesay Rooms is a relaxed, luxury dining experience in warm and welcoming surroundings. Our a la carte and tasting menus are inspired by Royal Deeside and produced with the fantastic locally-sourced ingredients we have available to us on our doorstep.

Where do you like to dine out in Scotland?

In my hometown of Aberdeen, I would choose the restaurant at The Chester Hotel or Moonfish Cafe. I’ve also been fortunate enough to dine at Martin Wishart’s restaurant in Leith, as well as Tom Kitchin’s Southside Scran, Number One at The Balmoral and Pompadour at the Waldorf Astoria. In Glasgow, a favourite of mine and my wife’s is Ox and Finch and in Anstruther I thoroughly enjoyed Billy Boyter’s The Cellar.

It’s your last meal on earth. What’s on the menu?

Wild rabbit loin stuffed with spinach and mushroom, confit rabbit leg cannelloni, roast sweetcorn and a rabbit consommé to start. Main course would be a 28-day aged ribeye steak on the bone, cooked medium rare and served with triple-cooked duck fat chips and a béarnaise sauce. Dessert would be a warm treacle tart with clotted cream.