JP McLachlan at Ducks Inn
Welcome to John Paul McLachlan at Ducks Inn. JP - could you run through your life’s journey to help explain why you think you want to come to Ducks Inn to open a restaurant with a Duck?
I wanted to expand on my outside catering business and you and I had a good conversation about joining forces. I thought it was a great opportunity to oversee a restaurant and get back into the kitchen again. It makes me excited and warm in the belly! I'm looking forward to cooking a good few meals at Ducks.
JP, we've always had really good chefs here. It's fantastic to have you on board because I know your background but not a lot of people do. How did you get into cheffing?
I began at a very early age, 15, working in a place called La Bavarde in Bearsden Cross in Glasgow. I then had the pleasure of working in some fantastic kitchens. I was a head chef at the early age of 25.
I then wanted to understand and experience what it was like to work in a Michelin star restaurant so I proceeded to pay for a £2,500 course to go to Le Manoir Aux Quat'Saisons and do a cookery course under Raymond Blanc. A fantastic guy.
After the course, I said that I would like to possibly join his kitchen brigade. Unfortunately, there were no positions in the kitchen but there was a position available in the pastry kitchen working under a great pastry chef called Benoit Blin.
How did you get the job? Who interviewed you? The great man?
Actually, funny, Raymond Blanc did interview me and asked me why I was giving up a £22k salary at the age of 24 to get a lot lower salary of, I think I remember it was about £14,000 – a big drop. What I said to him was, "I'm going to be better than you!"
That was brave.
Yes, very brave when Raymond Blanc is sitting across from you with a cigar and a cup of coffee. Quite a bold statement. Don't know where it came from, probably the heart! He says, "I like that kind of attitude," and I got the job. Spent a fantastic time there.
He didn't think you were French when you were Jean Paul when you came in.
SO – am I French? No! Paul is my confirmation name. Jean Paul, as everyone knows me in the catering, is more of a stage name. I think everybody thinks my name is Jean Paul but it's actually John Paul McLachlan. Pure Scottish through and through.
After hearing that Gordon Ramsay was going to open a restaurant in Amaryllis at One Devonshire Gardens. I was offered the pastry section and we were awarded a Michelin Star I think in the first year, working under David Dempsey a protégé of Gordon Ramsay.
I wouldn't say I'm a protégé of Gordon Ramsay. I've just learned a lot from Gordon and his team of chefs who I've worked with.
That's why I feel that it is a privilege to work in these kitchens rather than saying I'm a protégé or I worked under. I think it's important to always say that. So I spent a couple of years there – fantastic experience - although almost like the SAS of training!
I then went to Restaurant Martin Wishart in Edinburgh and spent about eight months working with that phenomenal chef and then went back to Amaryllis to help my good friend Colin Buchan.
After that I went down to Albannach in London on Trafalgar Square where I had the privilege of opening that from scratch. Designing the kitchen, everything from starting operation so that was quite exciting and had a fantastic and educational time doing that. I did the most expensive haggis, neeps and tatties in the world, supposedly, using a £10,000 bottle of Balvenie Cask 1961 I think it was!
Coming Back to Scotland
At this point myself and my now wife had a child down there and I decided it was time for us to return to the auld country to be closer to my family. I got a job with MacDonald Hotels working as Executive Chef at the Houstoun House Hotel.
I then became a personal cook for Mr MacDonald cooking for him down at the MacDonald Marine Hotel in North Berwick where subsequently I was offered the exec chef position.
Later I was approached by MacDonald Hotels to open a signature version which became John Paul at the Marine. At the same time, I was also the development chef for the group. Again, cooking for Mr MacDonald, on a personal basis or for some of his clients or friends. Once for one of their charity dinners where HRH Duke of Edinburgh was there. So I was the gofer boy - their go-to guy when it came to the cooking!
I had been more involved in restaurants rather than in hotels so cooking for 150 was a whole new kettle of fish to me!
It was a great learning curve and I tried to treat it like it was my own restaurant which it was although it was a joint venture. It built up from being not particularly busy to two AA rosettes - could have gone a wee bit further if we wanted, but I didn't want to do that because I wanted to keep it a brasserie and to attract a broad spectrum of folk.
It also taught me a lot about growth profits, running businesses as opposed to just the cooking side!
So yes spent some wonderful years at the MacDonald Marine Hotel, a fantastic time there, fantastic journey.
Then came the opportunity to buy Bunney's which was a café down there in North Berwick High Street appeared.
I wanted to have a little bit of work-life balance so I took the plunge and leased the business. And it's nothing like having a work-life balance, it's actually 10 times more work!!
What’s going to happen at Jean Paul and Ducks Inn?
What we're aiming to do here is keep the 2AA* restaurant level, keep doing good food but really trying to make it a lot more approachable to both locals and visitors to the area.
At JP and Ducks Inn we're going to have a menu which is appealing to all shapes and sizes and all clientele! Alongside the 2AA* restaurant, offering a good brasserie menu, which will have some tasty starters using local produce, Scottish ingredients and we'll go with the seasons as well.
So if asparagus is grown locally we'll try and source it and get some on the menu. I think it's important to keep things simple, fresh and tasty.
Classic fish and chips, burgers, club sandwiches, steak baguettes, you know Scottish. We'll do some Scottish tapas we'll do a nice little haggis bon-bons and some little smoked haddock goujons with a paprika aioli. We'll have a little vegetarian arancini, with some goat’s cheese.
Simple, tasty, good quality.
Looking forward to cooking for you all.