Meet the Chef
Driving from Cornwall to the Isle of Sky, Tony Pierce took a gamble and a bit of a detour to check out a job advertised for a Head Chef in Dumfries & Galloway. After ten hours of travelling, Tony wound his way along the country lanes towards Knockinaam Lodge, getting closer and closer to sea level he knew he wasn’t far and as his car tipped the final brow, ahead of him was a Victorian lodge set off a lawn that reached down to a beach and the sea beyond. That was over 25 years ago and the beginning of a love affair with this luxury hotel and the stunning countryside that surrounds it: “I just thought, my goodness and fell in love with the place straight away. It’s unique”
Knowing he had found somewhere very special, Tony set about honing his years of culinary skills to create something unique in the restaurant dining experience at Knockinaam Lodge. Tony’s passion for food began by accident 30 years ago when he left school with plans to become a joiner, instead a friend persuaded him to go along to an open day at Salford College and inspired by the catering department they both signed up to a catering diploma. His passion grew and so did his talents while working at restaurants in Manchester and then at the prestigious Gleneagles Hotel. Fine tuning his skills as part of the renowned catering team at Gleneagles he moved on to follow his dream of working in Michelin star restaurants. These included Mallory Court, The Box Tree Restaurant and Inverlochy Castle in Fort William.
With years of experience now under his belt and a passion to develop his own style and influence culinary experiences, Tony though it too good a chance to pass when the opportunity arose at Knockinaam. The hotel already had a culinary reputation of high regard and Tony wanted to influence that further with his ideas for modernising the experience. With the hotel moving into new ownership 15 years ago, Tony has continued to have the freedom to develop and refine the dining experience and train his close team of chefs who deliver imaginative menus that change daily with the seasons and the availability of the best quality produce
Tony explains the secret to his success: “My philosophy is simple: keep it simple. That is the key to delighting diners with dishes that they will savour. I limit the number of ingredients in each dish to ensure that the main component shines through. If you use high quality produce its best to tamper with it less not more.” With years working in Scotland, Tony had developed a depth of knowledge about regional produce that stood him in good stead along with a contact list of the very best and trusted suppliers. Many of those suppliers he has now worked with for as long as he has been creating dishes for guest at Knockinaam Lodge restaurant
His longevity in the culinary profession have not made Tony complacent and he is a rare breed: an unassuming chef. Tony retained a Micheline star for a record breaking 20 years, the longest run of consecutive years in the whole of Scotland and in 2008, having been nominated 4 years in a row for the Scottish Chef Awards, the biggest honour in Scottish cooking Tony deservedly took the top prize. Tony remains modest about his achievements, he explains why: “It’s all about the guests. They are the ones I look to please. I am a kitchen person. I’m not looking for the limelight, that place is reserved for the dishes that come from our kitchen. I want to create and deliver imaginative dishes that get people talking and coming back for more again and again. I want my team to be trained to the exacting standards that I was taught in an old school kitchen regime that has stood me in good stead all this time. Consistency is the key, and I aim to consistently deliver amazing dining experiences at Knockinaam Lodge”