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Scotland’s Kinloch Lodge has two people to thanks for its impeccable culinary reputation. One of them is its owner Lady Claire Macdonald, long-standing doyenne of Scottish cookery; the other is Marcello Tully, the hotel’s Brazil-born chef director. An alumnus of the Roux gastronomic empire, Marcello arrived at Kinloch in 2007, armed with a firm grounding in French cuisine, a finely honed technical skill and a passion for turning local speciality produce into show-stopping dishes. Under his leadership, the Kinloch kitchen became one of the most accomplished, admired and award-winning in Scotland – and the cooking classes he teaches in it became one of the hotel’s star attractions.

His first recipe book, The Key Ingredient, was published in 2017.

How did you end up teaching cooking?
There’s a history of cookery courses at Kinloch. Claire MacDonald has been hosting them for over 30 years and it seemed a natural progression for me, to not only train up-and-coming chefs in my kitchen, but also to teach inquisitive guests and non-residents here in the professional kitchen.

I love sharing what I’ve learned through the years and get great satisfaction in showing people that great food doesn’t need to be complex. I’m not into ‘kitchen secrets’.

What’s the hardest part of your job?
Persuading those who have picked up bad habits to change their ways.

…and the best?
Helping people to trust their palate and experiment with ingredients. To taste what they make as they prepare it and never be afraid to deviate a little from a recipe. Often the best dishes come about by chance.

Do you have a favourite course or topic that you teach?
I really enjoy the opportunity to showcase Skye’s wonderful larder in our ‘Croft & Sea’ workshop.  Seafood is abundant in our waters and there’s plenty of game on the hills and crofts – aptly recognised as some of the best produce in the world.

What do you think is the trickiest dish/technique that you teach in your classes?
I would say Kinloch’s one-day cured salmon fillet delicately wrapped in a delicious West Coast scallop mousse, but even that is achievable when you break it down.   

How would you describe the atmosphere in the school kitchen?
Buzzing but professional. The training happens alongside my brigade of chefs, so there’s always a lot to see and discuss.

What do you think makes the school stand out?
I think it’s the fact that we have a number of different classes available; ideas for entertaining, pastry and bread, butchery and filleting, soups, sauces and mousses – the list is by no means exhaustive. If a client has something specific in mind, then great – let’s cook!

Also, the fact that the teaching takes place in the hotel’s kitchen itself, so people really get a feel for what working in a pro kitchen is really like. They usually love it.

Do you think some people are just bad cooks? Or can everyone be saved?No, I think it’s more of a case of confidence. There are those that simply don’t enjoy cooking and some who have had negative experiences. Those with bad habits just need a little persuasion and guidance to try doing things a little differently and perhaps cooking with ingredients they wouldn’t normally try.

Be honest now: are there any ingredients that you use in your classes that you don’t actually like?
No – if there was an ingredient that I absolutely hate, I wouldn’t have the urge or inclination to prepare any meal with it. That said, the only ingredient I can think of that I absolutely detest is cloves!

How often do you introduce new classes, and how do you decide what to teach?
Classes are available on request and can be held any day of the week or weekend.  At Kinloch, we offer a range of cooking experiences; a full cookery workshop where we prepare and cook items on the lunch/evening menu, ranging from canapés, soups and starters, as well as a bespoke workshop which can covers topics such as pastry and bread, butchery and filleting, soups, sauces and mousses, fish and seafood, and entertaining. We also offer an Express Cookery Class where you learn how to make Kinloch’s famous savoury and sweet scones.

What are your three desert-island dishes?
Seared scallops with a warm sorrel foam – scallops are so quick and easy to cook!
Rope-grown mussels – gently steamed, with a delicious marinière.
Marinated venison loin flavoured with garlic, oranges, thyme and gin.