Chef’s Special: Yvonne Marshall, Head chef, The Benleva, Drumnadrochit

Yvonne Marshall

Located in the village of Drumnadrochit on the banks of Loch Ness, The Benleva is an 11-bedroom hotel offering fresh, classic dishes in a relaxed, welcoming environment

How long have you been in the industry and how did you start?

I started when I was 16 as a KP in a café. On busier nights I would help out making pizzas and ice-cream sundaes.

What’s your career highlight so far?

Being featured in Tom Kitchin’s book Relish; working as part of a team that was entered in the Michelin Guide; and being able to travel around and meet new people.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?

I’ve never really had any major challenges or setbacks as such. Inviting challenges is an essential part of growth so if there have been any I’ve always enjoyed them.

Describe your team.

Fun, energetic and always willing to put in a little bit extra.

How would you describe your restaurant and its food?

Casual, home-cooked food inspired by Scottish produce served in a relaxed atmosphere. A lot of our customers are walkers so we need to offer good hearty meals to recharge their batteries.

What’s your favourite Scottish ingredient?

Chanterelles or wild garlic; you don’t need to do much to create something delicious with either.

What’s your favourite dish to cook at home?

At the moment I’m trying to cut meat out of my diet. Stir-fries are great because you can pack so much nutrition into them, plus they are quick.

Is there any food you dislike?

Goats’ cheese and lamb. Growing up I used to help on a farm so I don’t know if that’s what puts me off.

What’s your favourite wine?

Last year my cousin and I went to New Zealand and visited Fromm Winery, where we tried a variety of wines just to be sure we had found the one we liked! Our final recommendation: Malbec.

What makes a good chef?

You have to be self-disciplined and driven, able to co-operate and patient.

What’s a top tip every chef should know?

Stay organised, stay focused, be calm in any situation.

What makes you laugh in the kitchen?

Anything and everything. It can be quite a serious environment so I think it’s important to be able to laugh.

Who do you admire in the industry and why?

Judith Fish, owner of the Applecross Inn. I had the pleasure of working for her for a few years. A good, honest, humble person.

How do you relax outside of work?

Exploring the wilderness, hill walking, running, swimming, badminton, golfing early on summer mornings or later on in the evening before sunset, and spending time with my family and friends.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had and where was it?

My gran’s Baked Alaska at my grandparents’ house. She made it for me as a child and I remember being completely baffled as to how she could have baked ice-cream inside of a cake.

Who would you invite for your ideal meal and where would you go?

I’d love to go to the Kakslauttanen glass igloos in Finland, take some spiritual soulmates, watch the Aurora Borealis, eat some good food and perhaps indulge in a whisky or two.