19 years ago, 22-year-old Ethan O’Hare, sous chef at The WeeCOOK Kitchen, Angus, was learning to chop carrots – sort of.
At just three years old, and equipped with a blunt knife, what Ethan lacked in experience, he made up for in enthusiasm.
“When I was wee, I used to do cooking with my mum,” recalls the 22-year-old.
“She’d give me a blunt knife and a carrot, and I’d just stand there for an hour on a little stool, bashing at it.
“I must have been three years old. I’ve still got vivid memories of it.
“I can chop a carrot better than that nowadays!”
From his earliest years, Ethan showed an interest in cooking.
Now, he’s the sous chef at one of the most popular pie spots in Angus.
“I was always very nosy when mum was cooking,” he says, “I was lucky that my mum always made homemade meals when I was growing up.
“So she was always busy in the kitchen and I’d always be snooping around, tasting it and trying any way I could to help.
“My brother is severely autistic, so my mum had her hands full with him. So some nights I would make dinner for the whole family.
“It was just basic stuff back then, but nowadays I’ve learned a lot more so I can make nicer dishes for the family.
“But mum doesn’t appreciate the mess after,” he laughs.
Now, Ethan is still cooking for his family, but also the customers who frequent the popular pie spot, The WeeCOOK Kitchen in Angus.
For nearly five years, he has been busy working in the restaurant.
His role as sous chef, says Ethan, involves “running the kitchen when the head chef’s away, sorting orders out and making sure everyone’s doing their jobs.”
Ethan also gets to help craft menus, including coming up with different recipes and specials.
Getting feedback from customers who have enjoyed ideas he pitched, like an Italian specials menu, means the world to Ethan.
While he is young to have such a role in the food and drink scene, his accomplishments speak for themselves and customers react well to seeing a young person in the kitchen.
Ethan won the NFU Mutual Inspirational Young Person Awards back in 2022.
“Customers say ‘you’re doing well for such a young man’. It’s always nice to hear compliments like that,” he says.
‘I’ve found friends for life’ at The WeeCOOK Kitchen, Angus
But it’s not just about the glory for this young chef.
Ethan gets on well the team around him and isn’t afraid to play the prankster.
“We’re all a close family,” he says, “I’m quite a prankster in the kitchen.
“This morning I put ice down Tessa’s back just to wake her up.
“I’ve found friends for life, so that’s half the battle when working in a kitchen.
“I’ve always got a smile on my face when I come into work.”
It’s difficult for Ethan to think of anything he doesn’t enjoy about working at The WeeCOOK Kitchen.
Even working every weekend isn’t an issue for the successful young chef, who manages to look on the bright side.
He says: “I wouldn’t change it for the world.
“I work every weekend pretty much.
“It’s probably good for my liver that I work at the weekends because my pals are out quite a lot!”
But he does admit there are some hazards involved in working in a kitchen.
He says: “I have sustained a few injuries – I even chopped the tip of my finger off!
“So it can be quite dangerous.”
But it’s the team around Ethan that makes the “dangerous” conditions, hot temperatures, and unsociable hours worth it.
“None of us are perfect here,” he says, “we’ve all got our demons.
“Sometimes it can get a bit heated, but it’s about trying to remain calm.
“I don’t get angry much but it’s difficult when you’ve got loads of pots, stoves and fryers around you and it’s 28 degrees outside.
“But we’re all really supportive of each other.
“I think having a good team that you’re close with definitely reflects on how the business runs and on the quality of the food.”