The Devour Chef Interview: Peter McKenna

The Devour Chef Interview: Peter McKenna

Peter McKenna started his career in rural Ireland in the mid-1990s and went on to train in the kitchens of renowned chefs in the Netherlands, London, Sydney, Dublin and Glasgow. He spent four years travelling the world as the personal chef of a Saudi sheik and two years on the yacht of a Russian oligarch. Chef Peter opened The Gannet restaurant four years ago with business partner Ivan Stein to critical acclaim. They quickly gathered a reputation as one of Glasgow’s leading restaurants. Having a firm focus on seasonal Scottish produce with solid links to local artisan producers, farmers and gamekeepers has helped them pick up many accolades and awards, including AA Scottish Restaurant of the Year 2015-16, 3 AA Rosettes and a Michelin Bib Gourmand.

Peter will be visiting Wolfville for Devour! The Grapevine chatted with him just before his trip.

The Grapevine (GV): It’s eleven o’clock at night and your starving, you have any possible ingredient in your pantry — what do you make? And if you are willing, how do you make it?
Peter McKenna (PM): I find myself in this situation regularly, after long shifts at the restaurant I want something quick, easy but still packs a flavour punch. For that reason I always have tinned Portuguese sardines (marinated in garlic and chilli) in my pantry, I slice some tomatoes and sourdough coat liberally with the oil from the sardines, build my sandwich, grate some Keens cheddar over the sardines and sprinkle a few small capers over, toast in a pan with a little weight on top, with this I like a large glass of Vinho Verde.

GV: Who are your influences in the kitchen?
PM: I was fortunate enough to have worked for Liam Tomlin when he had the famous Sydney restaurant Banc, we had such a strong team with everyone focused on the food and service, still influences me some 15 years later.

GV: What is the most interesting meal you’ve ever cooked?
PM: With over 20 years in professional kitchens I’ve been involved in many interesting meals but one sticks out in my mind, not because it was delicious, but because of the unusual nature of it. I was the personal chef for a Saudi Sheikh and spent my time travelling around the Mediterranean, Seychelles, Caribbean, Mexico and Middle East. The boss had a palace in the desert in northern Saudi Arabia. I had intended to prepare a western style buffet but my Arabic counterparts had other ideas, with a lack of local ingredients we with a put together Al Khabsa using the largest ‘paella style’ pan imaginable. What made this Khabsa unusual, we weren’t using rice and chicken but a whole camel! I will never forget moving the pan from the desert kitchen to buffet table on the back of a modified pick up truck.


Culinary Workshop with Chef Peter McKenna
Wolfville Farmer’s Market
Thursday, October 26
11:00am – 12:30pm
Chef Peter McKenna has a love of the ocean and a deep appreciation for its bounty. Peter prepares two of his customers’ favourite seafood dishes – seaweed cured wild halibut, crème fraîche, kohlrabi, radish and orange, and Blanched and scorched squid, ink and black garlic.

Scotland vs New Scotland: Celebrity Chef Dinner with Chefs Mark Greenaway, Peter McKenna, John Higgins, Martin Ruíz Salvador, Johnathan Canning, Shane Robilliard & Chris Velden
Wolfville Farmer’s Market
Thursday, October 26
8:00pm – 10:30pm