Over the quarter century that Stacey Marshall has spent in the hospitality industry, she has travelled all over the world, from London and the Scottish Highlands, to Brussels and Los Angeles – but she has never lost her passion for home-cooked food.
Born and brought up in Edinburgh, she started her career in bars and bar management ultimately working in hotel sales and event management. “I’ve been so lucky over the years to work with some amazing people and great companies like Malmaison, Skibo Castle and Pierre Victoire in Brussels,” she says.
When she came home to Scotland she worked as a cook and then head cook for nine years in St Andrews at The St Rule Club. “I enjoyed going back to my roots with classic home-cooked Scottish food,” she smiles.
Sis years ago, Stacey and a friend set up East Neuk Cooks, and, for the past four years, Stacey has run the business on her own.
“I offer a home delivery service of home cooked food, cater for weddings, parties, funerals and other special events, as well as supplying some local cafes, all made from scratch by me.”
Stacey does all her admin from her home in St Andrews and rents a kitchen in Glenrothes from Fife Council where she happily cooks away.
“I enjoy the diversity of the job,” she says. “One day I can be making big pots of soup for the café and the next making a home delivery order with slow braised shepherd’s pie and beef and chorizo chilli.
Sourcing as many of her ingredients locally she adds: “I have several amazing suppliers including Puddledub, Campbell’s Prime Meats and local vegetable suppliers.
“I am a sucker for celeriac – I love it in so many things from soups and stews to enjoying it on its own in a gratin. I also love beetroot and kale.
“We have some amazing full flavoured vegetables in Scotland and all of them can be incorporated into lots of dishes.
“I’ll pretty much eat most things but I’m not a big fan of Brussels sprouts,” she admits. “I have found a way I enjoy them – lots of cream, gruyere and bacon involved! – but it would be the one thing I wouldn’t be so keen to eat. Sorry, Brussels sprout lovers!”
On a more serious note, the Covid-19 pandemic has meant that 2020 has been hard for Stacey, as with so many businesses in the hospitality industry.
“I think we have all had a tough year and it’s not getting any easier for any of us with the huge amount of unemployment and all the businesses struggling to keep going,” she reflects.
“I have had a lot of support from my friends and family over this time as it has been a real struggle to keep the business going, and my customers have been amazing.
“I have lost 80% of my business since March and I am trying to keep going on the 20% I have left. I don’t make enough money to make ends meet at the moment but I am trying everything I can to keep things ticking over – we’re are all in the same boat right now so it’s a matter of getting on with things really.”
Stacey’s most recent venture has been preparing three-course festive meals for her Christmas Dinner delivery service, and selling them for £30 each.
“I was chatting to my parents about Christmas and how different it was going to be this year,” says Stacey.
“We all normally go to my sister and her family to have Christmas dinner but with Mum and Dad still shielding due to medical issues, it was looking like we wouldn’t be able to do that.
“When we were looking at options we had agreed what a pain it would be to try and cook a Christmas dinner for one or two people and that a lot of people probably wouldn’t bother,” she recalls.
“It was such a shame as my parents love their Christmas dinner with the family and it’s usually something for them to look forward to. I wondered whether maybe I could do something, and came up with the idea of a Christmas Dinner delivery service across Fife.”
Although orders for the service have now closed, Stacey was delighted with the positive response.
Whatever Christmas is like this year, she has plenty of tips for getting into the festive spirit.
“Still do the things you would normally do at Christmas, put up your Christmas decorations and cards, and if you’re like my mum you’ll be putting on It’s a Wonderful Life with a wee Christmas sherry and over-indulging in chocolates!
“Even if you aren’t cooking a full Christmas dinner, make yourself something a bit special or your favourite meal to make the day a celebration for you. Learn how to work Zoom!
“But even if you’re just calling friends and family on the phone, reach out – Christmas is what we make it and if it’s to teach us anything, it’s that the most important thing is talking to family, friends, neighbours and reaching out to anyone you know is on their own.”
Stacey’s latest project is making traditional clootie dumplings.
“What inspired them was my childhood and growing up eating clootie dumpling at my nana’s house,” she says.
Made by hand
“When I stayed at Christmas I used to love sitting in front of the coal fire when my nana would bring through the steamed pudding to sit on the hearth by the fire to dry the pudding and get that lovely skin on the outside.
“I make all the puddings by hand using her recipe, with dried fruit, treacle, syrup, spices and flour.
“I wrap the pudding mix in a piece of muslin cloth or ‘cloot’ and then I steam the pudding for four hours before unwrapping and finishing in the oven to get the traditional skin on the pudding,” Stacey explained.
“I have been doing some experimenting and have come up with a great gluten free clootie dumpling, too, which I think tastes exactly the same as my normal clootie dumpling.”
Stacey’s Wee Cloutie Dumplings cost £7.50 each. Call 07969 208497 or email firstname.lastname@example.org