Renowned Scottish chef

Born: November 21 1963;

Died: January 22 2019

ANDREW Fairlie, who has died aged 55, was Scotland’s most distinguished chef and the co-founder of the country’s only restaurant to hold two Michelin stars, the Restaurant Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles.

Unlike many other great chefs, Fairlie’s reputation rested almost entirely on the work of his own kitchen: his menus did not spawn diffusion lines of ready meals, cooks’ equipment or supermarket endorsements, a slew of other outlets bearing his name in airports and foreign capitals, nor even a range of cookbooks and television series, the staples of so many “celebrity” names in the food world.

Fairlie made the odd TV appearance, on Great British Menu and Masterchef: The Professionals. But his fame and accolades largely rested on the excellence of his training and imagination and from the team that he assembled, many of whom remained at his side for years.

He was also notable, in the volatile world of professional restaurants, for his courtesy, thoughtfulness and consideration; having had a taste of bullying and abuse in French kitchens during his training, he deprecated the cult of pressure and plate-slinging, which he thought discouraged talented youngsters from his trade. Fairlie was reluctant to pander to other expectations and snobberies that surround the very highest levels of professional cooking, too, deliberately choosing not to pursue a third star and, in later years, introducing a less finickey du marché section to his menus.

Andrew Fairlie was born on November 21 1963, one of five children, and grew up in a council house in Lethem, Perth. His father Jim taught economics, and twice stood as a candidate for the SNP before becoming deputy chairman of the party between 1981 and 1984, while his mother Kay worked in a shop. His mother was, he once conceded, “not a brilliant cook”, though he thought her mince and tatties were probably as good as anyone else’s in his street, and he retained a fondness for her thick vegetable soup which, despite much experimentation, he was never quite able to replicate.

But the family always ate together, and he and his brothers and sisters often helped his father prepare the evening meal – “pretty mundane, probably as much for economic reasons as anything else”. He was, however, impressed by school meals (lamb stew, steamed puddings) at his primary school and then at Perth Academy.

His food awakening came with a spoonful of beef chasseur, tasted while he had a job washing dishes at the Station Hotel; it contained tarragon, which came as a revelation. He left school at 15 to become an apprentice in its kitchen, where he received his early training under Keith Podmore and rapidly expanded his ambitions.

He moved with Podmore to London, to the kitchens of Boodle’s in clubland, and at the age of 20 won the first Roux scholarship, set up to offer young chefs a training in a traditional French kitchen. Fairlie spent three months at the three-starred Les Prés d’Eugénie in Gascony, under the tutelage of Michel Guérard, one of the world’s half-dozen greatest chefs and a founder of nouvelle cuisine.

His time there had a profound influence on Fairlie’s cooking, which was fundamentally in the modern French tradition, with an emphasis on quality ingredients and bright, light stocks and sauces. In later years, he demonstrated his commitment to that approach by taking on a dedicated kitchen garden to supply his restaurant. He admired the simplicity of the best Italian food (risotto was often on the menu) and elements of “fusion” cooking – he paired Orkney lobster with lime – though he deplored the sillier excesses of the style.

He disliked the bad-tempered, macho atmosphere of the Hôtel de Crillon, in the huge kitchens of which he spent some time before going to Disneyland Paris, where he studied staff management and then set up their fine dining restaurant and ran the 360-cover California Grill. Fairlie also spent time in Australia, and two seasons as the head chef on the Royal Scotsman, though he had a bad moment when he stepped off for a stroll in Fort William, and had to chase the departing train in a taxi, arriving only in time to serve the diners the cheeseboard.

He won his first Michelin star in 1996, while chef at what was then One Devonshire Gardens in Glasgow, where he spent seven years. He then went to set up at Gleneagles in 2001, taking with him Stevie McLaughland, now its head chef, and Dale Dewsbury, his general manager. Gregor Mathieson became his business partner and creative director. The following year, it too won him a star, and the accolade of Newcomer of the Year; he added a second in 2006 – becoming at that time one of only 11 restaurants in the UK to hold two stars. Fairlie retained them every year until his health compelled him to stand down from the kitchen in November. He won numerous accolades and awards, and was selected to cook the dinner for heads of state at the G8 summit in 2005.

But that year, while in Vietnam, he suffered a seizure, and was diagnosed with a brain tumour that required major surgery. He then had several spells of chemotherapy (one of which he abandoned in order to climb Kilimanjaro) and radiotherapy. For some years, the treatment, though debilitating, was effective enough to hold his fits at bay for weeks at a time. But when they did strike, he could suffer 20 seizures in a day.

Despite this, Fairlie remained cheerful and optimistic; describing himself as lucky to have enjoyed his life and work, and to have achieved his ambitions. He was notably non-materialistic; though he enjoyed design and was a natty dresser, he did not drive or take extravagant holidays. He was a lifelong supporter of independence, and served on the advisory board of Yes Scotland.

His marriage to his first wife, Ashley, with whom he had two daughters, was dissolved. His partner since 2008 had been Kate White, whom he married last year. She, his daughters and his two step-daughters survive him.