In Their Own Words – Tom Kitchin

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Tom Kitchin is owner of award-winning restaurant The Kitchin, in Leith, Scotland and The Scran & Scallie gastropub in Edinburgh. He was awarded his first Michelin star aged just 29, and has worked with some of the world’s best chefs, including Pierre Koffmann and Alain Ducasse. We caught up with him to talk food and whisky…

Tom Kitchin

I was quite late coming to whisky – 28 or 29, about the same time I opened my restaurant’

‘I’m very much into seasonality. At the moment, we’re in summer now, so maybe I won’t be drinking too much whisky, but when it gets a bit colder and the fire’s on, that’s my time for enjoying it. I’m also starting to enjoy whisky cocktails with ingredients like ginger and honey – things like that make whisky so much more approachable for people’

My favourite whiskies? I like Balvenie Caribbean Cask, I think it’s really interesting, plus Glen Grant 18 Year Old, and Invergordon from Adelphi finished in sherry casks’

‘When I was first asked to put together a whisky menu, I just couldn’t comprehend how it would work. But once I started talking to the whisky guys, we came up with the idea of using sawdust from whisky barrels to smoke things, that sort of thing. But the big one for me is the game season. Normally when cooking game, you would deglaze the pan with brandy or Cognac, but I used a peaty whisky with big heather notes which worked really well’

Shellfish Rockpool/The Kitchin

Shellfish rockpool, one of the signature dishes at The Kitchin

‘My top three whisky and food combinations would be my whisky baba dessert, scallops, and lamb. With scallops, I’d use a vermouth sauce and lemon confit, which works really well with the fruity notes of the whisky. Lamb is a really good one, because it has a lot of fat on it, and the whisky can cut through that. The other thing I like to do is boil down some whisky and honey to create a caramel, then bake a whole Vacherin cheese in the oven, then halfway through, pour the caramel over the cheese and add some rosemary leaves’

‘With our restaurant customers, we try not to get too technical with whisky, but we do explain the regions and use a whisky map to explain the terroir. We offer them a taste of two or three whiskies and we take the bottle to them, which all helps to convey the story of the whisky and the distillery’

‘I’ve visited Deanston distillery, which isn’t too far from where we are, and I’ve been to Scapa and Highland Park. We get a lot of produce for the restaurant from Orkney – beef, cheese, seafood – and I go up there a couple of times a year’

Whisky is one of Scotland’s biggest exports and one of our proudest assets. There’s a real resurgence in whisky, too, and especially with food’

Posted in In Their Own Words, Scotch Whisky, WHISKY & WHISKEY
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