Graham Campbell wanted to be a chef from an early age. His first job as ‘the lowest of the low’ was at the Caledonian Hotel in his hometown of Oban, where he progressed to sous chef before moving down to Rochdale for a position at Andrew Nutter’s eponymous restaurant.
Moving on to Paul Heathcote’s Longridge, he worked under head chef James Holah, previously sous chef at Claridge’s, and it was here that his fine dining career began in earnest. ‘That was a real eye opener,' he says. 'I got introduced to many new foods; I had never seen foie gras or mushroom ravioli, I had no idea that any of that existed. They put me on larder and asked me to make an amuse bouche – I had no idea what that was.’ Within three months he was sous chef.
In 2008 he decided to move back to Scotland, taking up a position as head chef at The Ballachulish House near Fort William. Cooking a small menu for the restaurant’s select clientele, he took everything he had learnt from Heathcote’s and made it his own.
In 2009 he was awarded a Michelin star for his food, much to his surprise, becoming the youngest chef in Scotland to receive a Michelin star at just twenty-five. The restaurant closed shortly after, but this unexpected affirmation of his talents proved a huge motivator. ‘That is when I started buying all the books and researching myself, and since then it has always been about me and what I do,' says Graham. 'I dabble and experiment with flavours.’
Stints running the kitchens at the Lake of Menteith Hotel in Perthshire and The Monastery in Manchester followed, where he cooked bold, flavour-rich dishes. One of his favourite ingredients is Goosnargh duck, a preference picked up while working at Longridge, where Paul Heathcote championed the production of this specially bred animal at a dedicated Lancashire farm back in the 1990s. This flavour-packed, low-fat duck, which Graham describes as ‘amazing’, made a regular appearance in his menus, such as Honey-marinated Goosnargh duck breast with sautéed greens and crispy noodles.