Q&A with Kevin MacGillivary: A Culinary Journey

Susan Abbot

Kevin MacGillivary is one of Scotland’s most respected and well known chefs. Cooking from the young age of 15, Kevin is passionate about food. He has travelled and competed around the world giving him a wealth of culinary knowledge but he has always remained passionate about Scottish produce. Kevin has worked in some of the finest restaurants around the west coast of Scotland, ran his own catering business, managed the Scottish Culinary Team and has been President of Scottish Federation of Chefs, not once but twice. Over the years Kevin has collected several culinary awards and accolades deserving of such a successful career.

We talk to Kevin about his culinary journey so far and his latest role as Head of Culinary Projects at Hub International.

You have had an extensive and successful career; what have been the high points of your career so far?
I’ve been fortunate to experience numerous highlights throughout my journey. Winning the Scottish Chef of The Year title stands out as a significant personal achievement. It meant a lot, considering the competition’s high calibre. Another cherished memory is securing double gold medals at the Culinary World Cup with the Scottish Culinary Team, showcasing the talent and dedication of our team on the global stage.

Until recently, you ran your own successful catering business. What inspired you to change direction, join Hub International, and move into a training role?

Running my own business was incredibly rewarding, but observing Hub International’s growth and dynamic approach, led by Stephanie Wade, intrigued me. Joining a modern, fun, and energetic training company felt like the right move at this point in my career. I hope to pass on the skills I’ve acquired during my career to inspire future talent.

How did your journey into the culinary world start, and how has it shaped your passion for training others in the field?

My culinary journey began at 16 as an apprentice chef with British Transport Hotels. The 4-year program, combining kitchen work and theoretical learning at catering college, provided a solid foundation. Experiencing the benefits of such a structured apprenticeship combining practical and theory shaped my passion for the industry. It instilled in me the importance of combining education and practical experience for aspiring chefs, an experience I look to pass on at Hub International.

What qualities do you believe are crucial for someone entering the hospitality industry to become a chef?
Teamwork, communication, and active listening are paramount for success in the hospitality industry. A ‘can do’ attitude is a must-have attribute, making the journey a pleasant experience. Understanding the dynamics of hospitality, whether on the craft side or in service, is crucial. Once armed with knowledge and training, doors will open for aspiring individuals.

How do your training programs at Hub International prepare individuals for the challenges of the industry?

At Hub International we offer a wide range of training programs. Our trade side of the business works with professionals already in the industry who are looking to learn new skills and take their career to the next level. But we also have a social enterprise side of the business, partnering with local schools and employability schemes to attract fresh talent to the industry. Here we take them on a culinary journey introducing them to every aspect of the industry, from meeting suppliers, to understanding where food originates, to gaining basic chef skills. All our trainers have worked in the industry and by leveraging our industry partnerships, we can introduce trainees to a variety of cooking styles, ensuring a well-rounded and versatile training experience.

What advice do you have for someone starting their culinary journey, particularly those new to the industry?

Find an employer who invests in your training and development. The initial years of your culinary journey are fundamental, shaping your skills and growth as a person and a professional. If your current workplace doesn’t provide the support you need, don’t hesitate to seek out an environment that values your development.

So what’s your main focus for 2024?

We have our Hi! hospitality training programmes running across Ayrshire as well as a few exciting sporting events to manage, but first I’m off to Germany to judge the Culinary Olympics in Stuttgart. It’s one of the oldest and most diverse culinary competitions known. I was very touched to be asked, I’m really looking forward to the experience.

Got to ask, what’s your favourite food?

Can I choose two? It’s got to be a good Scotch roast beef and Scottish shellfish.

Favourite holiday destination?

Dubai.

Do you choose your holiday around food?

Absolutely. It is an integral part of my travel plans!