In a nutshell, Chef Gary Townsend: ‘I’d be a Scientist if I wasn’t a chef. I am  fascinated with how things work’

In a nutshell, Chef Gary Townsend: ‘I’d be a Scientist if I wasn’t a chef. I am fascinated with how things work’

Gary Townsend has had an illustrious career spanning 20 years working in some of the UK’s top kitchens. Townsend recently announced that he will be opening his own fine dining restaurant, Elements in Bearsden, Glasgow.


What’s the closest thing you have to a signature dish:

I love Scottish seafood and langoustines always feature on my menus. One dish in particular has langoustines with veal sweetbreads, pumpkin and lobster cappuccino.

Describe your style of cuisine in ten words:

Refined, flavoursome, sustainable, fun, Scottish, contemporary, distinctive, local, foraged, and last but not least, evolving.

Best and/or most memorable meal you’ve ever eaten:

The Ledbury when it first reopened – it was outstanding from the moment we arrived until we walked out the door. It’s such a special place.  I can’t wait to go back!

Worst/weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten:

In my early years I worked in a place where the head chef used leftover breakfast items and would turn it into a breakfast calzone. We were forced to eat it and had to pretend it was nice

Worst thing you’ve ever cooked:

Too many to mention, chef’s don’t always get it right and I’ve made a few clangers in my time trying to create new dishes for menus.

What’s the dish that you’re most proud of having cooked:

Probably my deer dish for the National Chef of the Year final. 

Favourite ingredient:

I think it has to be butter. It truly is a wonderful ingredient to cook with, but also just simply delicious to eat with sourdough. I really appreciate a great bread and butter course at a restaurant.

Your go-to recipe book:

Pollen Street Social is a fantastic book, it always fills me with inspiration. Also Eleven Madison Park  – the original – it’s a chef’s bible.

What other country’s cuisine really excites and intrigues you?

Scandinavian cuisine is phenomenal. The freshness, the use of unusual plants and herbs and the strong connection between land and sea. 

Most you’ve ever paid for a meal:

£800 for two of us – was worth every penny.

Your favourite Scottish chef:

I learned so much from Martin Wishart, during my time at Cameron House. 

Favourite chef outside Scotland:

Ben Murphy, a good friend of mine, is an exceptional London-based chef. Internationally, Yotam Ottolenghi really inspires me, his recipes are delicious.

Who taught you to cook or ignited your passion for food as a youngster:

Paul Foster was a great inspiration to me. He was the first chef I worked with who was at that Michelin level and had real drive and ambition. He ignited my passion in fine dining.

Most important lesson a young chef can learn:

Practice makes perfect. You need to continually educate yourself and evolve, go out and taste everything!

Best thing about the industry:

The people, in a lot of ways it’s like a large, sometimes dysfunctional extended family. People look out for each other, and especially now, when hospitality is struggling, that’s more important than ever.

Worst thing about the industry:


What’s the biggest sin a chef can commit:

Pea shoots on every dish.

What do you eat when you’re at home:

Cereal mostly – I never have the time to cook after a long shift.

Celebrity guest or your perfect dinner party – who would you most like to cook for:  

Professor Brian Cox  – I am fascinated with space.

Tell me a something about you that virtually no-one knows:

I broke my collar bone falling out of a bouncy castle.

What’s your favourite wine?

A nice Sauterne, I love a sweet wine.  

Your spirit of choice?

Gin and tonic

Do you play music in the kitchen and, if so, what’s your go-to track or artist:

90s and early 2000s Brit-pop.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?

A Scientist I think, I am  fascinated with how things work.


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