Eriska chef is in the mix for ‘ultimate’ scholarship

Isle of Eriska chef de partie Josh Wilkinson.

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A local chef could be cooking up a storm at Gleneagles this year after making it onto the shortlist for a prestigious scholarship award.

Josh Wilkinson, currently working as senior chef de partie at the Isle of Eriska Hotel, has been named as one of six finalists in the search for the recipients of the second annual Andrew Fairlie Scholarship.

Born in Bathgate, the 25-year-old attended college in Stirling before moving on to ply his trade at the Cromlix in Kinbuck. However, when Covid scuppered his plans to work in London last year, the youngster took up his position at Eriska from where he applied for the scholarship.

‘The scholarship offers great opportunities and I am really excited to be given a chance to prove myself among other talented chefs,’ said Josh.

‘I’ve always been interested in cooking. As I grew older it snowballed into a passion that I wanted pursue and I couldn’t imagine a job that didn’t involve food.’

Currently on furlough, Josh is keen to get back to the Eriska kitchen where, under the expert eye of head chef Andrew Bell, he can continue to cook up a storm.

‘Working with Andy has been great,’ he added. ‘He has great energy and enthusiasm, and loves trying out new ideas. I have learned a lot from my short time there and look forward to continuing my journey.’

Spearheaded by HIT Scotland and supported by the First Minister, Scottish Government and The Gleneagles Hotel, the scholarship was first launched in February 2019 in recognition of Andrew Fairlie’s significant and lasting contribution to the hospitality industry.

The scholarship recognises two outstanding individuals each year – one male and one female – who are forging ahead with their culinary careers and working in Scotland.

Stephen McLaughlin, Restaurant Andrew Fairlie Head Chef and lead judge, said: ‘I am thrilled to have selected six chefs from our many applications for the Andrew Fairlie Scholarship Finals Day. Each have shown in their applications a fine sense of drive and an unwavering commitment to themselves to develop, learn and rise to challenges in front of them.’

The final stage of the competition will take place at Gleneagles, where each of the finalists’ skills will be put to the ultimate test before the winners are announced. The Finals Day date has been postponed due to Covid-19, but will take place later in 2021 when it is safe to do so.

‘Being ‘match fit’ will be key for Finals Day. I am looking forward to seeing and hearing how our finalists have been keeping their minds sharp and their knives keen during what has been odd and difficult times,’ added Mr McLaughlin.

The chosen winners will gain industry-wide recognition as Andrew Fairlie Scholars and experience once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, such as a practical stage in an international kitchen, and at Michelin star restaurants Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles and Core by Clare Smyth.

Other aspiring chefs in the running for the ‘ultimate scholarship’ in the industry include Zdenka Tomova, 26, 1st Commis Chef at The Strathearn at Gleneagles Hotel; Chef de Partie at The Torridon Amy Stephenson, 22; Spud Henderson, 31, Chef de Partie at Craig Millar @ 16 West End; Ryan McCutcheon, 28, Chef Patron at Achray House Hotel; and Peter Meechan, 24, Junior Sous Chef at The Strathearn at Gleneagles.