FOURty Seconds with Paul Leonard

20 Sep 2016
3 min read
Having previously held positions at Andrew Fairlies at Gleneagles, Paul Leonard joined the Isle Of Eriska in the summer of 2015. FOUR speaks to the talented chef about his work at the award-winning 5 star luxury hotel and Michelin star restaurant situated on the west coast of Scotland.

What are your earliest memories of being interested in food?

My mother has always been a keen cook. I remember at a young age being in the kitchen making cakes and biscuits with her using recipes from an old ‘Bero’ book. It was the most exciting time of the week.

What would you say has inspired your cooking the most?

Nature has certainly been the main inspiration, from the wild larder that we have growing around us at the Isle of Eriska, to the changing seasons, as we get excited about the new produce that becomes available for us to use. Waking up every morning and checking the weather to see how it’s going to affect the garden, or seeing if the wild herbs will be ready to harvest is the first thought of the day!

Describe your culinary style…

I am not trying to reinvent the wheel whatsoever. We start the process of cooking when we are sourcing the produce from our suppliers or choosing what seeds to plant in the garden. We make sure that we have 100% confidence in what we bring into the kitchen and then we cook with discipline and spend our time maximising flavours.

What would you say is the main focus/concept for the restaurant at Eriska?

The menu we have at Eriska changes daily, so we focus on freshness, seasonality and sourcing as much as possible locally. Almost all of the produce that comes in to our kitchen is Scottish and I think that this is important to our guests. The whole island is run organically and we reflect that in the food we produce.

What do you think has made the restaurant/menu so successful?

We have a great understanding of our identity; who we are and where we’re located, and balance this with offering a luxury product. So our guests feel as though they are getting a taste of the west coast of Scotland whilst feeling completely looked after. The guests trust the kitchen which is important.

What are your most indispensable ingredients?

The island produces so many ingredients that we sometimes take for granted. We have a member of the team going out every morning to collect various things from around the island. I would say we would be slightly lost without this produce at our disposal.

What would you say has been the most memorable moment in your culinary career so far?

I have loved every minute of my career so far! I would have to say that the most memorable has been working down in London as this opened my eyes to the levels of precision and discipline that’s required. More recently working with Stevie McLaughlin at Restaurant Andrew Fairlie; his influence changed me as a chef and a person.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self, starting out a career in the world of food?

Never stop asking questions, read as much as you can, understand that there is more than one way to do something correctly. Respect everyone that plays a part in the kitchen, the team deserves respect for the part they play. Also enjoy yourself, we are all part of a very special industry.

What’s next for you/what projects do you have lined up?

Keep on building on what we are doing here at Eriska; the kitchen garden is looking good at the moment so I would like to get to a stage where it is a major focus for our guests. Also I will continue building relationships with the artisan suppliers in Scotland and make Eriska a flagship for consistently promoting the excellent produce we have on the island.

What is your guilty pleasure?

There is nothing I like more on a night off than to go out for a good curry. Maybe even a pint to accompany it!

What restaurant is currently at the top of your list to dine at?

It’s the restaurant that’s been on top of my list for many years – Hoff Van Cleve in Belgium. I am constantly looking on his web site to see what Peter Goosen is up to. It’s the pinnacle of cooking for me and really can wait to get over and eat there.

Isle of Eriska


Oban PA37 1SD

United Kingdom

+44 1631 720371