World was his oyster before landing the gannet

City talk | Terence Chang 12 Mar 2020

I have stayed in Glasgow for a week or so both in the summer and the winter in the past few years.

While there, I go to The Gannet, a fine-dining place on Argyle Street.

The shop changes its menu often. It used to have an a la carte menu, but in the past couple of years, it offers only set meals.

Despite having fewer choices, its food still gave me pleasant surprises every time.

On my last visit to the city, I had a face-to-face with the shop’s chief chef and owner, Peter McKenna.

I asked about his training as a chef, and the story about his restaurant.

He told me to become a chef, one has to start with washing dishes.

He wasn’t joking. His first job at a hotel eatery was washing pots and pans, bowls and plates.

He told me his mother is a great cook who taught him about paying attention to detail every step of the way, starting from preparing ingredients.

To hone their skills, chefs have to go to work and learn in various different places.

McKenna started by learning Italian cooking for two years before going to the Netherlands, where he worked as an assistant at the palace – "an unforgettable experience that opened his eyes."

Then he went to London, where he continued to work and learn.

The fourth stop was Australia. There, he worked at different restaurants at the Sydney Opera House.

The pay wasn’t good, but he didn’t mind, because "that’s where I met my future wife."

He then returned to London briefly before going to Dublin, Ireland, and he didn’t really like it there.

Eventually, he went to Germany to be a cruise ship chef. That job paid well and had generous benefits, so he stayed for several years.

When he had trained for a total of 20 years, McKenna decided to open a shop of his own, so he set up The Gannet with partners six years ago.

The restaurant charged reasonably and changed its menu with the seasons.

"We will have a different menu when you come back in the summer," he said. I told him the Chinese also believe in eating food that is in season.

The set dinner that evening comprised Loch Etive sea trout, Megahy's Farm Angus beef, North Sea monk fish and Cairngorm red deer, with barley Bavarois as dessert, all for £45 (HK$452) per head.

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