We spoke with Glynn Purnell ahead of his appearance at the Signature Festival in Aberdeen about his foodie inspirations
How did you get into cooking?
I got in to cooking when I was around about 10. I used to go to the markets with my mum, and then I started experimenting in the kitchen at home. My first dish was baked beans and curry powder. My brother and sisters thought I was a culinary genius – as did I! I heated the baked beans on the hob, sprinkled in some curry powder, brought it to a simmer, put in a knob of butter, gently mixed it and then served it topped with a sprinkling of grated cheese, on toast. That was my first dish. Do you know what, I haven’t made that in ages. It might be time to bring it back!
Who has most inspired you in the kitchen?
Claude Bosi and Andreas Antona- two great chefs. Also my mum for her staple, solid Midlands cooking. Everything from pigs trotters to stews – rabbit stew with lentils and leeks was a particular favourite of mine. My dad was also an inspiration. He bought a wok after he saw Ken Hom on the telly one day. He then bought a spice rack after he saw Madhur Jaffrey on the telly! He was also a massive Keith Floyd fan. My dad used to cook for us on a Saturday. We used to watch ‘Food and Drink’ on BBC when I was about 10 years old, and then it blew both of our minds when I was asked to go on it twice when they brought it back in 2013. It’s like it all went full circle – we’d watch Keith Floyd and Madhur Jaffrey on Food and Drink, and they inspired my dad, and then he inspired me.
What is the philosophy behind the menus at your restaurants? How do you decide what to include?
There’s quite a few of my classic signature dishes still on the menu at Purnell’s, even after 12 years – the customers won’t allow me to take them off. Some of the key members of my team also help me to create new dishes for the menus as they change with the seasons. My philosophy behind the menus is all about my inspirations, my memories and flavours from childhood and growing up – honeycomb from the fair, cinder toffee, curry, corned beef and brown sauce sandwiches, haddock and eggs, cheese and pineapple. All of these things are on my menus at the moment, just my own take on them. They’ll probably all still be on the menu in another 12 years as well, in their future versions.
What is your favourite Scottish ingredient to cook with, and what dish(es) do you use it in?
I love cooking with Scottish girolles. I do a nice mijoter of sweetcorn, girolles and sweetcorn puree, and serve it with a slow cooked chicken breast, which is steamed on the crown and then caramelised. I also use Scottish girolles with scallops. I do a lovely dish of roast scallops with a stew of girolles, brown shrimps, white beans and cucumber. Then, of course, there’s the Scottish raspberries. I do a white chocolate and raspberry delice with beautiful Scottish raspberries. Other Scottish ingredients that I love are haggis and black pudding. The black pudding that I use in the restaurant is Stornoway black pudding. I think I must be half Scottish? Just call me Glen…
What made you decide to get involved with the Signature Festival?
When I was approached by the Signature team last year, I just thought that it was a fantastic opportunity to cook in Scotland. I’d never been as far up as Aberdeen until I went for the Festival last November! Last year was a really interesting trip. I had a great time in the kitchen with Kevin Dalgleish who’s the Executive Chef at the Chester Hotel and a really lovely guy. And also Graham Wood, who is the organiser of the Signature Festival- what a great guy he is. Once I’d chatted to Graham and Kevin, it was a no-brainer really. And last year the Festival raised nearly a quarter of a million pounds for a fantastic charity, the Neo Natal Unit at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, so hats off to Graham for that. Taking part in events such as the Signature Festival is also a really good opportunity for me to take a few of the guys out of the kitchen at Purnell’s. They get to work in a different kitchen and see a different food philosophy and meet different people in the industry. It really is a great all-round event.
Glynn Purnell appears at the Signature Festival, Chester Hotel, Aberdeen on 4th November