Graeme Pallister, chef patron of 63 Tay Street in Perth, reveals how lockdown has affected his business and that he is thrilled to be back in action again…
March 2020 – what a month. Ever since my first job, 17 years ago, the longest I’ve been away from a stove and a hard morning’s prep is about nine days! And even then, my head would still have been awash with menus and ingredients.
Initially, I was very much in chef-proprietor mode. Between furloughing staff, cancelling suppliers and the unknown consequences of closing the doors of 63 Tay Street, it was a stressful time.
I also discovered that my life in the kitchen was really just my life! 63 is so much more than a job – it’s who I am. My team are my friends, my customers are people I genuinely like, and my suppliers need me as much as I need them. To have this all so rudely stopped was a blow to my entire system.
And then came April. I began to relax. I took my knives home and cooked for my family – the kids never knew what had hit them! I rarely get the time to indulge in proper take-it-easy cooking and it was marvellous. My children suddenly “got” what I do and began to understand my passion for taking ingredients and creating honest, simple dishes. Just wonderful.
I also spent a lot of time chatting with other chefs; the main dilemma being “what do people wear seven days a week?”
Turns out I’m 42 and don’t really know how to dress myself unless it’s whites!
There was a lot of foraging – that glorious wild garlic season meant my soup pot never stopped bubbling. I took to baking – not my strong point, we have Lee for that – and joined the nation in banana bread overload.
I almost cried come asparagus season – it came and went without any of the usual pomp or ceremony, the covid timeline very quickly turning into “the season’s lost timeline”.
When it was announced we could reopen my first thought was “thank goodness we didn’t miss all the berries!”
It was mixed emotions at first; we had to work out a whole host of new safety checks and I had to be mindful that we didn’t lose our 63 magic in among those. To do both, we have fewer covers and are offering only the tasting menu.
Of course, opening weekend was full and it felt amazing to be back. By the time the last hour came round it was as though I’d never been away – and I mean that positively!
We’re also offering restaurant dishes as takeaway for customers who still prefer to be at home, and even this was a learning curve. We had to think hard about how we could ensure great quality when it was being reheated in someone’s microwave – thankfully, we’ve cracked it and I think this may well end up a long-term offer.
All aspects of our life have changed, so inevitably how we eat and cook has undergone a mini-revolution. People have learned new dishes, have taken time to enjoy recreating old ones and sat down, at their own tables to break bread and chat with their tiny inner circle.
For me, the storm was rough but now that things are slowly moving on I do think that we might just learn how to enjoy the best of both foodie worlds.
Embrace your new found love of easy cooking. Two tatties, diced, washed and patted dry. Add olive oil, seasoning and garlic and place in an oven tray. Add sliced white onion and sausages and cook in the oven at 180 for 30 minutes. While that’s cooking, put your favourite green veg in a bowl with seeds, a knob of butter, salt and pepper. Ping in the microwave for 2 minutes and add to your sausages. Perfect!