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A happy childhood filled with home cooking gave Stephen an appetite for becoming a chef

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Happy memories of his dad’s lentil and ham hock soup and homemade pizza inspired Stephen King to embark on a career in hospitality when he was 19.

Growing up in Kinross, he took an early interest in the preparation of family meals.

“My dad enjoys cooking so, looking back, helping him from a young age with homemade pizza and peeling veg probably got me started,” says Stephen.

“My mum always enjoyed baking and I have fond memories of waiting to get the leftover cake in the mixing bowl!

“So as I got older I became more adventurous and prepared a few meals for the family and took an interest in learning new things before I even started thinking about working in kitchens.”

As well as his dad’s soup, he also recalls other tasty dishes. “There was my mum’s rice pudding with that layer of skin on top, and apple sponge with apples from the garden which, to this day, I still have with a splash of cold milk over the top rather than custard or ice cream,” he smiles.

“Christmas dinner at my aunt’s house was always a great day and I have fond memories from then and also going to my other aunts for the traditional steak pie dinner on New Year’s Day – a tradition that’s still going strong and a highlight of my year.”

Stephen has come a long way since he first started out as a barman and waiter in Puerto Pollensa in Mallorca at a Scottish-owned hotel.

Learning curve

“Once my eight-month season was finished I stayed in Mallorca for a total of five years, working for a family business looking after one of their bars, and it was around this time I wanted to start to learn more about hospitality, especially the kitchen side and learning the ins and outs of a kitchen,” says Stephen.

On his return to the UK, he worked as a barman at a high end bar in Newcastle and was lucky enough to pick up a couple of shifts in the kitchen.

“I left Newcastle to do an HNC in professional cookery at Elmwood College in Cupar while working as a commis chef at St Andrews Bay Hotel (now The Fairmont St Andrews),” he says.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better place or group of chefs to learn from and loved my year there.”

After completing college, Stephen returned to Newcastle before moving back to Kinross in 2009.

“I had a couple of jobs over the next six years that eventually led me to Uisge in Murthly in March 2015, which was still under construction,” he recalls.

“So on September 1 2015 I officially started and was straight into finalising menus and contacting suppliers to organise the kitchen.

Work ethic

Uisge opened on the 18th  – the same day my son was born – and I have never looked back.

“I was fortunate to have a young lad with a hard-to-find great work ethic start with me and as the business grew, I started looking to expand the team.

“It took a few years to get there but the team we have in the kitchen is hard to beat and I’m grateful for everything they do. This was only made possible by having such brilliant owners – Laura and Steven McKenzie have put faith in me and supported me through developing the business and I look forward to seeing what the future holds.”

Married to Katy and with two children aged five and eight, Stephen says that although life is busy, trying to fit family time in around work, he relishes every moment.

Working with local producers and cooking with the seasons are two of his greatest pleasures.


“We try to source as much as possible locally especially for the a la carte menu,” he says. “We get smoked salmon from Dunkeld (six miles away) which is the nicest smoked salmon I’ve had; our local butcher owns a farm within five miles, so our beef and lamb come from there when in season.

“We’re also fortunate to have local gamekeepers from whom we occasionally get local venison and pheasants.

“Our all-day menu consists of everyday favourites and wholesome dishes that are produced with good quality ingredients. The a la carte choices are more refined and tend to change seasonally and are sourced as locally as possible.”

Stephen King.


“Lucky” venison

If chefs have a “lucky” dish then Stephen’s would be venison haunch with dauphinoise potatoes roast root veg, parsnip puree and a red wine jus, “purely because it’s a nice clean dish I like to eat and it’s what I cooked for Laura and Steven for their breakfast when I went for my interview with them!” he smiles.

A typical day for Stephen will start the night before, with all the prep lists done then so the team knows what they’re coming in to in the morning.

“Mornings consist of getting set for lunch then service, and between lunch and dinner we take time to organise the evening specials or plan ahead for the coming days,” he says.

He reveals that, while most of his colleagues would say his favourite ingredient to cook with is butter – “Which might well be true!” he laughs – at the moment to cook he’s loving cooking with fish.

“Whether it is salmon, sea bass or monkfish, there is something satisfying in producing a nicely cooked piece of fish, especially at work on the induction stove as it gives such an even heat it makes cooking fish so easy,” he says.

Mushrooms, however, are a different kettle of fish: “Due to having a mushroom allergy I’m not a fan of cooking with them as I need someone else to taste for seasoning!” he reveals.

Smoked haddock Florentine

(Serves 4-5)



  • 1kg undyed smoked haddock
  • 600ml milk
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • 300g spinach washed
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley (optional)
  • 10 large potatoes (roosters)
  • 3 egg yolks


  1. In a sauce pan gently warm the milk over a medium heat until almost at a simmer.
  2. Add the smoked haddock to the milk and gently poach until opaque and flaking (6-7 minutes), remove from the heat and gently lift the haddock from the milk using a slotted spoon being careful not to break up the haddock too much. Keep the milk aside.
  3. In a heavy based saucepan melt the butter over a medium heat and then add the flour to make a roux continuously stirring cook for 2-3 minutes to cook out the flour without getting too much colour in the roux.
  4. Gradually add in the warm milk while continuing to whisk until you have a nice creamy sauce. Remove from the heat and add the parsley and salt to season.
  5. Add the smoked haddock to the sauce and gently fold it together so the haddock has a nice coating all over.
  6. Meanwhile peel and boil the potatoes for mash, once drained mash the potatoes with butter and salt to taste then add in the egg yolks (egg yolks are optional but it gives it a lovely golden brown when it gets baked in the oven.
  7. Wilt the spinach over a pot of boiling water in a colander.
  8. Place the spinach in the bottom of a suitable casserole dish (the dish will need to be a couple of inches deep) spread the spinach out so there is a nice thin covering on the bottom of the dish.
  9. Gently spoon over the haddock and sauce so you have a nice deep layer, then either pipe or spoon on the warm mash
  10. Place the dish in the centre of a preheated oven and bake at 180C for 20 mins or until the mash is nicely golden brown.
  11. Serve with either buttered greens or a nice piece of crusty bread.
  12. This is a nice easy dish and great for this time of year as it is a nice hearty meal packed with flavour. It can also be served as a starter if you were to follow the same recipe but make them in individual ramekins.