Chef’s Special: Derek Johnstone, Head chef, Borthwick Castle, North Middleton

Built in 1430 and now operating as an events venue, Borthwick Castle can cater for up to 80 guests. The menu is tailored to each event and features fresh, seasonal produce

How long have you been in the industry?

I have been working in the hospitality industry for 19 years. I started at the bottom as a part-time commis chef at the age of 16 while I was still studying a general catering course at college.

What’s your career highlight so far?

The biggest highlights of my career have to be winning the inaugural series of MasterChef: The Professionals in 2008, taking on my first head chef position working under Albert Roux, and being awarded a place in the top three at the Craft Guild of Chefs’ ‘National Chef of the Year’ competition last year.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

I think the biggest challenge was probably the first time I went abroad to work in Milan, without any friends or family. Not speaking the language is difficult, but I learnt you can contribute just as much if you work hard, learn and develop. It was hugely rewarding and gave me the confidence to go forward in my career.

Describe your staff.

I am very lucky to have a team of hard working, talented and loyal people around me. Without these guys my task in providing exquisite events would not be possible.

How would you describe your restaurant and its food?

Borthwick Castle is a luxury exclusive hire property where the menu design is very much led by the customer. Though my style is undeniably French, I like being challenged to cook more diverse offerings.

What’s your favourite Scottish ingredient?

My favourite ingredients are Scotch black Angus beef, Scotch lamb and the wonderful shellfish that we have here in Scotland.

What’s your favourite dish to cook at home?

A good quality free-range roast chicken with lovely fresh vegetables and potatoes.

Is there any food you dislike?

I can’t eat tripe. I’ve tried over the years, but it really is one of the few ingredients that I just cannot eat.

What’s your favourite wine?

I am not a huge wine drinker and would much prefer to choose a local gin with a slimline tonic.

What makes a good chef?

Someone that is dedicated to their profession with a can-do attitude. A willingness to learn and listen to others to enable them to progress in their career is essential.

What’s a top tip every chef should know?

It’s impossible to produce a great level of cuisine without operating in a pristine and organised environment. Communication is key!

What makes you laugh in the kitchen?

Kitchen banter with the team after a successful event.

How do you relax outside of work?

I like to go to the gym, watch Game of Thrones and walk my dogs at the beach.

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

My most memorable meal was a birthday lunch with my wife at Pierre Koffman’s restaurant at the Berkeley Hotel. The food was fantastic with great service and amazing company.

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

I would love to visit a London pie and mash shop with Lord Sugar. I’d enjoy having an opportunity to chat to him about his success in life and in his career.