Taste of Edinburgh - Stuart Muir gets out of the kitchen - Pressure cooker
What does it take to shift your restaurant from the city centre to a tent in a field a couple of miles away? Stuart Muir, head chef at the Forth Floor Restaurant, has become a bit of a seasoned hand
Brand Events, the company behind Taste of Edinburgh, run their restaurant festivals in a number of cities around the UK, as well as overseas in places such as Cape Town and Sydney. The concept is clearly popular with the public, but it also involves persuading an array of top local chefs to leave behind their familiar domains and hang their names above the doorway of a relatively spartan marquee at the festival site. It’s a demanding logistical exercise, but perhaps the key to it is that most chefs love a challenge – not to mention a change of scenery.
Stuart Muir of the Forth Floor Restaurant at Harvey Nichols is a prime example. ‘This is our third year, so it should be a bit easier,’ he says, ‘but it is hard work.
‘You’ve got a limited amount of equipment to use, and there are a lot of restrictions – power, plumbing and refrigeration all have to be considered. The food you put on the plate in your restaurant isn’t going to be exactly what you can do at the event itself.
‘I planned what I was cooking for this year way back in May last year. You don’t want to have lots of things going on with the dish. Food is served on disposable plates and you’re given recyclable cutlery to eat with. If it’s blowing a gale your garnish isn’t going to stay on top very long.
‘I’m sticking to cooking fish again; this year I’m doing sea bream. The thing about fish is that it comes in fresh on the day and it’s cooked to order. It’s a summer dish, and I enjoy cooking it. I went through 1400 fillets of seabass last year – that’s the best part of 3000 portions. I have a six-burner stove, each with a pan on it cooking three to four pieces of fish, and I continually rotate them.’
With a line-up of big-name restaurants on the bill, there’s a danger that folk turn up to the festival expecting lavish meals at every turn. Muir regards that as missing the point.
‘You can’t really put fine-dining onto disposable plates. The connection is that the chef is there cooking it. The whole idea of the event is that it’s a tapas-style celebration of restaurants. You buy your ticket, you get your Crowns, and then try as many restaurants as you could possibly want. The portions are small so that you can go round all the restaurants. I look upon it as a huge tapas in the park.’