Monday, 7 September 2015

Industry shortage of Chefs

It's a skill, it's a passion and its long hours..... but why as an industry are we facing a kitchen crisis with a shortage of chefs. The whole industry and its credability is under threat if we loose the kitchen skills to a dumb down quick fix drag anyone in mind set. We've had a chef de partie vacancy for over 4 months now and not so much as an application. It's been on our Facebook, with a chef agency and in the local rag and still nothing. Having become a little paranoid that it's was us I set off to phone some colleagues and discovered that they too were struggling. 
What is it that we want ? The answer is simple TRAINING and we need our local college and the current vogue thinking and practice of 2 day week courses to revert back to full time, Monday to Friday 9am - 4pm courses with good 3+ month blocks of industrial release experience across the regions hotels. We need courses that get our young talent ready for the hard slog of the real world and a real kitchen. It's hot, long hours, split shifts but it's a rewarding career if you want to climb the ladder and understand you must walk before you can run.
Let's face it Dumfries and Galloway hardly sets the culinary world on fire, we all try our hardest to showcase local produce and work with local suppliers but we all struggle due to a lack of skilled labour in our sector. We can train in house and the majority of us do, but we need the local college to be the industry feeder. There are jobs out here to be taken and as a region tourism is our lifeline.
If we want to keep holiday makers coming we need to.
So I'm off to the college next week to have a look around the new catering department to get an understanding of why the majority of full time courses are 2 to 3 days a week. I'll report back in due course.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

New Year - what will it bring ???

Happy new year....

And So here we are in 2015, what will this one bring ? Last year was a mixed bag really, a slow start to the season then a cracking summer period with long uninterrupted spells of sunshine which took us right through to mid October and then bang we are suddenly plunged into winter and dark nights. We've had some wonderful people staying with us and some amazing feedback.
We redeveloped the menus using the Sous Vide and water bath techniques, we refurbished a couple more rooms, we've said hello and goodbye to some of our amazing staff and now we've turned the corner and 2015 stretches out ahead of us.

No sooner had we cheered to the bells heralding another year then we were onto planning our year of Scottish Food and Drink. And what a year it is shaping up to be. Firstly our 2 course Scottish Game menu at £14 is tremendous value and showcases everything that is quality with Scottish Game.
Here's a really delicious tender breast of Mallard from the menu below
We're coming to the end of the shooting season now and looking forward to welcoming our Canadian friends once again thanks to Andrew Case of Forrest Estates who puts on an action packed program of clay pigeon shooting, driven pheasant days and walked up days. One of the best shoots locally over the years has been Mutehill and it is with great sadness that Saul and Barbara Patterson finish up there at the end of the season. I have had the pleasure of shooting there myself and must say that it is one of the best run and managed shoots I have ever been on. Good luck wherever you end up Saul and Barbara and thanks for many years of happy guns.

And so back to the year of Scottish Food and drink, it is with great pleasure that we present some stunning craft beers from the home of Scottish brewing, Belhaven Brewery.
Craft beers are growing in popularity, we have four top quality brews to offer you ... Craft Pilsner, a clean crisp and refreshing beer at 4.8%. Next up a strong complex and layered beer Speyside Oak aged at a whopping 6.5%abv, then a deep ruby rich nutty beer simply known as Scottish Ale at 5.2% and finally Twisted Thistle at 5.6% and what I would call a traditional India pale ale, bold, bitter and juicy.
By now you should be familiar with our Local food heroes, they are all hanging on the wall and appearing on menus and whenever we can promote local food. Our first local food menu has gone down a treat and head chef Paul Somerville and the team have started working on the next one which will once again hold a few surprises when it is launched early March 
Don't forget you can sign up to our text alert service by texting 60777 with the letters MCGNR and we will then send you foodie related offers and deals as and when we think them up !!!

At the end of January we will be hosting a Party Night with the theme of "Anything but Burns" not that we want to upset the Burns purists ( we did that many years ago with our toilet seats ) but we felt that Burns nights are predominantly male and so we thought let's have a party night to include the ladies and we promise not to mention Burns - that's scheduled for Friday 23rd January at £25pp for a 3 course dinner with coffee and a quiz, disco and party games.

When we hit February we'll be spicing things up with a Taste of India, again 2 courses for £14 running alongside our usual menu. Some great Scottish dishes with a twist, such as Haggis Pakoras and Galloway Lamb Koftas.... It will run Monday to Thursday lunch and dinner.

Then when we hit March we'll be showcasing another Taste of Italy menu. We ran this a couple of years ago when we recruited the famous Douglas Lisi from L'Aperatif in Stranraer, Douglas spent some time with me and the team teaching us just exactly how Mamma made it.... Again 2 courses for £14 is on offer.

And if all that isn't enough then come and have a couple of nights with us - we've got a great offer of any 2 nights for £79pp based on 2 sharing a twin or double room.... book now and come and see us.

Happy new year to you all, thanks for your support and see you soon

Chris, Sue and Douglas

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Autumn and winter menu launches along with our food heroes gallery

It's been a hectic summer, thank you to all of you that have come along to support us and a huge thanks to the team her at the Selkirk for all their hard work.

And in and amongst the bust time we have been beavering away developing our Winter menu which we are delighted to launch for your enjoyment. We have expanded our repertoire in technique by now including water bath sous vide - probably best explained in the short video below 

To prepare food sous vide (say: sue veed), we pick our desired doneness, then set a water bath to the appropriate time-and-temperature settings. The bath is heated just enough to cook the food as we like it, meaning we never need to worry about over- or undercooking it. This technique locks the flavours in and allows us to take for example the rump of beef, marinade it in our treacle marinade, bag it and vac pack it then slowly cook it in the water bath overnight to make a melt in your mouth cut of meat.

So we use the technique now with our Duck dish, marinading it in Galloway Lodge's Whisky Honey Marmalade, sealing it a vacuum pouch and cooking it in the water bath. The result a very tender melt in your mouth duck breast.

It has also been an exciting time in the development of our local food heroes link. We have such wonderful suppliers on our doorstep that we felt the time was right to ensure our customers were aware of the quality and commitment we and our food heroes have to providing simply the best.

Commissioning local photographer Giles Atkinson to creatively capture the true character and persona of local suppliers that the hotel use.

“I wanted to tie together the important link between what we do and our passionate support for the local suppliers. People often perceive us to be expensive, yes we are to some extent because we refuse to buy Argentinean Beef or New Zealand Lamb, we don’t go down the Ice cream from anywhere avenue and we hope the product we serve reflects that. The Horsemeat scandal last year made many people look at what they were eating and where it is from. We have a wonderful selection of local suppliers and we wanted to showcase them to our customers.”

Local food heroes include:

Sheena's Chilli jam is quite amazing, home grown chillies from Sheena's poly tunnels in Wigtown - this is Sheena's story 

In October 2012 after finally having enough of being unable to buy chillies anywhere locally except Jalapeno and Scotch Bonnets, I decided that enough was enough and I was going to do something about it.

I love chillies and there is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t cook with them or use them when baking. So after a couple of months carrying out some research – Galloway Chillies was born on the 1st December 2012.
I am a farmer’s daughter and I am passionate about local and British produce. Therefore I had decided right from day one that only British chillies would be used in my products. I currently make eight types of preserves which are available in five heats.
When they are available my own home grown chilli plants (40 plus varieties) and chillies will also be available to buy but of course this will be limited as I will also need the chillies I grow to go into my own products.
The chilli preserves are made from scratch in my own kitchen in small batches so that every batch is of good quality and flavour.
I hope you will enjoy this journey with myself and Galloway Chillies. Hey, maybe we’ll bump into you soon at one of the many markets and shows we attend.


Galloway Lodge Preserves have been producing jam for over 40 years, after Nigel Hesketh starting selling to locals in his small town in the heart of Dumfries & Galloway. The company now supplies both retail and foodservice customers throughout Scotland, has a shop and cafĂ© in Gatehouse of Fleet and is starting to increase its list of customers in England. For Director Ruaridh Hesketh (Nigel’s son), this growth is thanks to persistence and seeking out the right distributors and Nigel's wife Fiona is still very much hands on in the day to day manufacturing. Thanks Fiona and Ruaridh we just love your products


Nestling on the banks of Wigtown Bay is the Galloway Smokehouse, home of prize winning smoked salmon, trout, seafood and game. From the simple kipper to the grand salmon a huge variety of smoked food is on offer.  As well as selling smoked foods, they sell a wide variety of local produce including Galloway honey, jams, pickles, sauces and ice cream.   Some of the fish they catch themselves, some is bought from local fishermen who they know personally, and some comes from further afield.
Allan Watson the owner and smoker says "We know our fish, we are local fishermen ourselves, fishing Wigtown Bay mainly for Sea Bass and Grey Mullet, but we can also catch Flounder, Thornback Ray, Dover Sole, Plaice and Mackerel.  We also smoke our produce on the premises."
"If you would like to have a look around our smokers and have someone explain the smoking process to you, or you would like us to smoke a fish you’ve caught yourself – just ask!  We can also offer a polystyrene box and an ice pack to keep your purchases in best condition if you have a long way to travel –  do ask!  We are here to help!"
Well worth a visit when you come up to the area.

The Finlay family have farmed at Rainton since the 1920s. Originally we made farmhouse cheese with our milk but in the 60s and 70s mass manufacture made that unprofitable and we reverted mainly to producing milk. Rainton became organic in 1993 and a year later we decided to try something completely different with our milk, using it to create delicious produce to make the most of its rich, creamy flavour.
Cream o’ Galloway ice cream was launched at the Royal Highland Show in 1994. Over the past twenty years we’ve massively expanded our range of flavours, we’ve sold it throughout the UK, and indeed overseas, and we’ve won numerous awards.
However, at the heart of our ice cream, always, is a natural approach to creating food made with normal, real ingredients – no chemical nasties, gums or artificial flavours.


A family run brewery originally started by Allen's Mum and Dad, Helen and Jim. sadly Helen passed away a number of years ago but father and son continue to brew great real ales right here on our doorstep, so good that we were instrumental in the creation of the Grace beer that now goes into making our batter, one for the batter, one for me !! Hic !!! 
Allen says "We take great pride in the production of our products which are brewed traditionally, with no concentrates, colourings or extract and with accent on the taste of yesteryear
When was the last time you savoured the aroma of a mass produced beer, or tasted its wholesome natural flavour?
The name "Sulwath" is the ancient name for the Solway Estuary. This is reputed to date back to a ford, or crossing near the mouth of the river Esk which marked the border between Scotland and England around the 13th Century, and from general usage, the estuary became known as "Sulwath"With the predominance of migratory seabirds in the upper reaches of the Solway."
Come & meet the brewer on their conducted tours every Monday & Friday at 1pm.


House Chocolates has built up a reputation for quality and presentation. Gillian Warden owner of In House Chocolates has developed and produced several Gold Award Winning chocolates and with her design background produced a unique gift presentation which was shortlisted for the Scottish Food Excellence Awards on two occasions.
In House Chocolates produces a wide range of chocolates, truffles, a wide selection of chocolate bars, chocolate seasonal lines and kids selections.
All their products are all truly made by hand and the highest quality ingredients are used at all times, their ethos in business is never to substitute quality for cheap imitations. Gillian says
"We are a small company but small is beautiful and our company has built up a reputation for quality, proven in the repeat custom we receive year after year from wholesale and retail clients. "

Scott looks particularly mean in this great portrait, the truth is he's a gentle giant with a heart of gold.
Scott says "At TH Carson, we're proud of our heritage. We still hold true to the founding principles of the business started in 1933 by my grandfather, Thomas Carson and to the fact we remain a traditional family business to this day.

We specialise in the supply of the very finest quality Scottish meat sourced locally from farms right here in Dumfries and Galloway, south-west Scotland. We have built up a solid reputation with our customers in and around Dalbeattie (and visitors to the area) over the years, something which has been recognised by the many industry awards we have received."

Another family business now run by John King Jnr and his lovely wife Jackie. How many hotels can get fresh Scallops literally off the boat ?? Well we can and they are amazing, I just love King Scallops.
The story of West Coast Sea Products begins when Mr John King, a lobster and subsequent white fish fisherman, discovered he had a flair for detecting and raising King and Queen Scallops from the Irish Sea.
He invented, patented and produced a new kind of dredge with springs to prevent the teeth snagging on the sea bed and began to fish for the prized catch using strong, powerful, fishing vessels.
In 1968 the firm of Galloway Shellfish was established, initially with fourteen employees.
Mr King discovered there was an eager market for King and Queen Scallops in the USA. In 1966 The Gulf Of Mexico, which was the main fishery supplying the USA was overfished and the Americans started to look elsewhere for product.
In 1971 the company name changed to West Coast Sea Products Ltd, employing 35 members of staff, supplying product mainly to the USA and broke into the French market.
The company continued to expand under Mr King's direction with his son joining the company in 1989 following a successful career as a scallop fisherman. The administrative section has recently moved to larger, roomier premises beside the processing section. The firm now employs almost 150 full and part time operatives.

So - there you have it - our local food heroes and the stories behind them. You can take a look at our new menu on our web site or by clicking the picture below which give you a taster  as to how we have incorporated the portraits into our menus and marketing material.

A huge thank you is also due to WOLFFE design in Edinburgh who have helped me develop this journey with special thanks to Andrew and Rebecca.

And a huge thank you to our Exec Head Chef Paul Somerville and the team in the Kitchen for all their hard work and dedication in bringing this new menu and new direction to life.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Summer menu lunches as sunshine continues

It's probably the busiest weekend for the UK,Wimbeldon, the British GP, the Tour de France from Yorkshire, The World Cup and our summer menu lunch.
After months of planning, trials and tests with sous vide and water bath techniques Head chef Paul Sommerville and team have launched our most adventurous menu yet. We hope you can get along to try it soon.
Using as many local ingredients and suppliers as possible the menu is the pioneer for the local food heroes launch in October where the hotel will showcase all the local suppliers in a photo gallery in the Bistro area. Local photographer Giles Atkinson has been commissioned to take photos of the individual suppliers to try and tie together how passionate the hotel and kitchen team are about sourcing local ingredients.
The menu takes on an authentic look, designed by Wolffe design in Edinburgh the menu continues to link the band product of the Selkirk and establish it as a seriously good food destination in Dumfries and Galloway along side the cosy 17 bedroom town house already established and popular.
You can check out the new menu and download your own copy here

Friday, 18 April 2014

Easter is upon us.... again

DIRECTOR - CHRIS WALKER blogs this week on - "Photographs"

Where does time go ? Another year and it's Easter again.... the sun is shining and the lambs are in the fields, the daffodils are out and the Swallows are here.... It's going to be a good Summer. (Fingers crossed)

I've always been a keen photographer, really just to keep for the record and to look back on and cherish the memories. So as  I have been sorting through 70+ years worth of my Mum's photos I realise how much joy they can bring and how they stimulate memories... but in the modern age of digital media - we really don't have albums the same as we used to.

How many of you still keep up to date photo albums ??

We started life in the early days of digital media with Flickr - still one of my favourites - take a trip down memory lane with some of our older pics here

Now we've just joined the world of Instagram - join us here
where I'll be uploading some pics from the hotel and also some from our road trip around France and Spain. As a media savvy society we are keen to share and post our pictures to an instant world, but can we ever get them back, can we look back in time and re live the memories ?

But coming back to all the albums my Mother had painstakingly created I realise that we are in danger as a throw away society of losing at least a generations worth of printed memories to the digital age - I air caution to a younger generation - hang onto your pictures, they are a valuable reference point for the next generation. Print them off or create printed albums with them - maybe just one album of events from a specific year but print them off... in the world of digital media, hacking and cloud based storage one can never be too sure if all the digital memories we create will still be there in 10 years.

Sue and I are taking a few weeks off in May to tour through France and Spain to sample, naturally, the French cuisine, fine wine and Spanish Tapas - look out for some interesting pics heading onto Instagram whilst we are away. Douglas and the team are holding the fort and we'll be running a couple of where in the world is this competitions on the hotel's Facebook page in due course.

Wishing you all a happy Easter - don't forget to take lots of family photos... keep well and take care...

Here's a very bonny Highland Coo I came across the other day - can anyone guess where I took this picture ?


Saturday, 1 March 2014

March madness, nearly but not quite Lent or a little self discipline ?

Co owner Sue Walker writes for the blog this week....

Once something is said , it cannot be unsaid and  sometimes the consequences have far reaching implications.

Today as 1st March was upon us I declared to Chris“ I am going to have a dry March “ Well, once he had picked himself up from rolling around the floor laughing.  My indignation set in. “What – you think I can’t do it?” – more floor rolling, clutching sides to contain his mirth , was followed with a bet for £100 being offered.  Of course the bet was accepted and I am determined to prove my strength of character and see it through.

You may be reading this , thinking I am a raving Alcoholic – No, but I do have a very healthy appreciation of the grape and love my wine – Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chablis, Pouilly Fumee,  ……… name just a few. Well, being in the catering trade all my working life I care to think of it as professional interest and by researching in my leisure time I am developing my knowledge which can only help me in a professional capacity …………… OK I know, a lame excuse, but  sounds good.

So a month of sobriety for me and I suspect much teasing from a few and an insufferable husband who will try and trip me up on the way as he is a tight Yorkshire man, not keen to part with his money !

The £100 will come in very handy now as I have just realised I have washed my IPhone 5 along with the weekly wash – ouch – I really should  get him to increase his bet !!!!

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

In the big smoke to keep up to speed with social media

Well - here I am - out of my comfort zone of little ole Dumfries and Galloway. I've headed down to the big city, the big smoke - you know London, to the SES social media and marketing conference at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre.


Well in order to keep our pencil sharp and keep up to speed with all the latest trends and analytics in the on line world I needed to come to hear the likes of Bruce Daisley MD of Twitter UK and to hear from Google as to the importance of Google +

One of the areas that many of you with web sites will need to be aware of is the need for your site to be responsive ( ours is just being re built thanks to Kyle the Designer ) to make sure it can cope with the mobile and tablet world. 60% of purchases on line and hotel bookings are now done by a tablet device. Considering the first iPad didn't come out until 2010 that's quite an amazing statistic.

So some of the things to look out for in the next year are the growth of google +, ok google and google now. Google ads words will still play an important part in your on line campaign but there will be an increase in image ads as we process image data 60,000 times faster than text.

China now incidentally have 60% of users on mobile devices and only 40% on desktop PCs - what are you reading this on ? I'm typing it on an iPad.

So armed with all this information I and my media marvel buddies Giles and Bruce are running a 2 day workshop next month. You can come as a residential guest or as a day delegate - full details are on the web site just follow the link here