10th July 2015

Aspiring Young Chef Combines Love of Food and Farming

A talented young chef, who lives on her family’s farm near Mintlaw, is combining her love of food and farming to help achieve early success in the hospitality industry.

Eilidh Davidson emerged as the overall winner in the Scotch Beef Young Aspiring Chef Challenge after a cook-off final at Taste of Grampian held at Thainstone in June.

The competition, sponsored by Quality Meat Scotland, gives young chefs the opportunity to demonstrate their innovation and talent as well as highlighting the quality of local produce like Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork.

Eilidh, a 17 year old student studying Professional Cookery at North East Scotland College in Aberdeen, won her way through from a shortlist of seven to the final, when she cooked against fellow North East Scotland College student, and last year’s winner, Brogan Tilney.

Eilidh lives with her parents Leslie and Maureen and brothers Stewart, Fraser and Finlay on the family farm, West Cortiecram near Mintlaw.

Leslie Davidson said: “Eilidh enjoyed cooking from a very young age and used to bake, initially helping her mum and then on her own. She was pretty good - there would be the occasional disaster but she stuck to it!”

West Cortiecram is a 550 acre mixed farm, owned and run by the Davidson family who also rent and contract farm another 200 acres.  The family has 500 continental finishing cattle and 1750 feeding lambs.

Eilidh said: “I like to help on the farm whenever I can. Some people don’t understand where their food comes from but, having been brought up on a farm, I really appreciate the hours of hard work that go into looking after the animals and how that leads to a top quality food product.

“Scotch Beef is my favourite ingredient - I find it really versatile. You can do so many things with all the different cuts. When I was deciding on my menu for the challenge I knew right from the start that I wanted to have beef as the main course.”

Eilidh used fillet of beef which she bought from Donald Russell in Inverurie in her award-winning menu. “It was important to me to use a piece of local beef - I like to know where my ingredients come from.”

Her winning menu was a main course of Fillet of Scotch Beef, fondant potatoes, leek and mushroom stew, red wine and shallot sauce. This was followed by a dessert of baked vanilla cheesecake, lemon curd ice-cream and macerated strawberries.

“Robert Bruce, one of the lecturers on my course, encouraged me to enter and I felt that if Robert thought that I could do it then I had to give it a try. It was the first cookery competition I had ever done and I didn’t know what to expect.

“There was an awful lot to do in the hour we had allocated, however I had practiced the menu a few times and I was quite confident I would get it all done. Although I did find it really off-putting having all the people watching and having to talk to the commentator made it tricky!”

The final was judged by three judges, including award-winning cook and food writer Lady Claire MacDonald. Points were awarded for technique and skills, presentation and flavour.

Eilidh said: “It was a really close competition, with only two points in it. Lady Claire Macdonald particularly like my pudding so I think that may have swung it in my favour.”

Eilidh’s first prize is a one week Hospitality Industry Trust Scotland Scholarship which can be tailored to her future career, a £200 voucher for kitchen equipment and a signed cook book from Lady Claire Macdonald.

Eilidh is aiming for a career in cookery, and currently works part-time at The Lodge in Strichen, a restaurant and coffee shop, during term time and full time in her holidays.



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