Back in March, four of the biggest names in Scottish hospitality launched The 100, a group designed to bang the drum for Scottish hospitality. Alice Lascelles meets Stuart McCluskey, the project’s co-founder
WHO ARE THE 100?
Mike Aikman – co-owner, Bramble Bar, The Last Word, Lucky Liquor Co, Edinburgh
Andy Gemmell – founder, The Drink Cabinet UK
Stuart McCluskey – owner, The Bon Vivant and The Devil’s Advocate, Edinburgh
Graham Suttle – managing director, Kained Holdings
Plus, of course, 100 of Scotland’s finest from the world of F&B
Why did you launch The 100?
‘It was partly frustration with the fact that we never saw any Scottish bars except Bramble make awards lists. We thought, maybe we’re not banging the drum enough. As they say in Scotland, quiet bairns get nae sweeties. We also wanted to address how the hospitality industry in Scotland is marketed – as a nation we have hung our hat on the shortbread tin, whisky, kilts and haggis thing forever and it’s lazy. We’re so much more than that. Then there’s the fact that Scottish talent is so often lost to London, Australia, the States, and also to the big brands. We thought, let’s come together as a group, and give the hospitality industry in Scotland a bit of a kick up the arse.’
Who are The 100?
‘The 100 includes people from all parts of the Scottish hospitality industry, from bartenders and sommeliers to baristas, publicans and chefs. The first 100 were chosen by us four founders with the help of nine more industry people, three each from Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. Next year, these founding members will nominate 100 more, and so on every year. We also have plans to reach out to Scottish producers – there are so many new whiskies and gins now, for example – and we want to make more of that.’
And what will The 100 do?
‘We’re launching our own Scottish hospitality industry awards, which will take place every January. We’re also organising four events a year where members can come to hear from expert speakers and debate the issues facing our industry. Our first one took placed in Stockbridge in March and guest speakers included Michelin-starred chef Tom Kitchin, drinks writer Dave Broom and brewer Petra Wetzel, a German who now runs her brewery out of Glasgow. Our next one, in July, will be in Glasgow, with a panel including Ryan Chetiyawardana (of Dandelyan and White Lyan).’
What do you want to achieve?
‘Ultimately, we want to be able to go down to Holyrood and speak to our MPs. We’re due new tax-raising powers in Scotland and we want to find out how that will affect us. We want to speak to the tourism minister about how we can communicate more about this world-class industry we have here. There are issues such as national minimum wage, and of course there’s health – Scotland’s not got the best reputation for its attitude towards food and drink, so how can the hospitality industry work with the government to help change that? There are so many issues we can get involved in.’
How would you describe morale in Scottish hospitality right now?
‘Where I am in Edinburgh we’re seeing huge development with the likes of Dishoom and Wahaca coming here, and big hotel groups investing. The restaurant scene is fantastic. We’ve always been good at that top-end thing; we’ve got five Michelin-starred restaurants, however we’ve previously lacked that middle ground, but that’s now changing with places such as Timberyard and Ondine. Then there’s the everyday places, such as V Deep, a really cool new pub in Leith that does Indian food and craft beer. So there’s a lot happening.’
Are there any other places that you’ve looked to for inspiration for The 100?
‘I was in Athens recently, and what they’ve done over there is amazing – not long ago it wasn’t known for much other than having a fun night out, and now you’ve got the likes of The Clumsies and Baba au Rum, who have been really active on social media, inviting bartenders out to do takeovers, and working with brands. You go to any major city in the world now and the majority of the bartenders will have heard of this burgeoning scene in Athens because of what they’ve done. We don’t do enough of that.’
In their own words...
Dave Broom, drinks writer
‘The issue is retaining [talent] and attracting people from the rest of the UK – or further afield – to help grow this vibrant, innovative and groundbreaking Scottish hospitality. That will require training initiatives, events, lobbying and spreading the word about the wonders of what is available in Scotland: produce (food or drink), provenance and talent.’
Ryan Chetiyawardana, Dandelyan/White Lyan
‘We need a mature conversation around alcohol and this has to include front-line workers and industry professionals. There also needs to be more of a voice given to areas outside London, and Scotland has been so crucial in the UK and global scene that it needs more representation.’
Andy Gemmel, The Drink Cabinet UK
‘For me, The 100 is about creating a community and sharing the knowledge so we can inspire the next generation of sommeliers, waiters and mixologists.’
Tom Kitchin, The Kitchin
‘I’ve worked in some of the world’s best restaurants but I’ve always been drawn back to Scotland. Our natural larder is without doubt one of the best in the world and that’s why I had no doubt that Edinburgh was the place for us to open our restaurant, The Kitchin. The 100 provides the perfect platform to showcase just how good our food and drink scene is.’
Petra Wetzel, West Brewery
‘I have been a proud Gerwegian (that’s a German living in Glasgow) for the past 23 years and I firmly believe that Scotland has some of the finest produce, brands and hospitality in the world. As a small country we definitely punch way above our weight!’
For more information on The 100, keep an eye on social media via #The100Scots