Who are you?
What do you do?
Owner/operator of Big Poppas.
How did you come to work in Scottish hospitality?
From the North of Scotland originally, starting working in pubs in Dingwall the day after I turned 18. There is nothing else to do up there really...
Who are/were your mentors and inspirations?
Craig Harper, Nairn Robertson, Paul Blythe...the original Tonic Team mostly.
Roddy fisher, Stu Macclusky, Mike Aikman and Jason Scott.
What excites you about hospitality?
The way it continues to improve. Every day somewhere terrible closes its doors, giving another operator a chance to do something new and innovative. There are no limits to the imaginations of bar and restaurant operators. It's an ever-changing scene, which means you can never get bored if it.
What are you doing to up Scotland’s hospitality game?
I've trained a few bods back in the day, some of whom have gone onto greatness. I feel like, in order to help Scotland's hospitality scene improve, you need to go and travel and see what other people are doing and then bring that back home and use it to make our own scene even better.
What has been the pinnacle moment of your hospitality career so far?
I was the opening bar manager of The Baxter Inn, and then went on to be GM for almost 5 years. In that time it was voted in the top 10 bars of the world every year. It also won a slew of awards within Australia.
What trends do you predict for Scottish Produce?
People are very proud of their Scottish heritage, and with the world getting smaller every day, it pretty easy to find great Scottish product everywhere. My local corner shop has Irn Bru, which was a game changer here in Sydney.
What trends do you predict for the Scottish bar scene?
I dont get back as often as I would like, but it continues to impress me whenever I do. Edinburgh has always been competitive with New York and London with regards to how the bars operate, and there is no sign of that changing
What trends do you predict for the Scottish restaurant scene?
Not really an area I know enough about, but the quality of produce is second to none
What trends do you predict for the Scottish tourism scene?
Hopefully it'll continue to grow. The more people that get to experience Scotland the better. Both the Scots and the visitors are better for it.
What trends do you predict for Scottish brands?
Hopefully they will keep being regarded as some of the best on the planet.
What is your biggest hospitality pet hate?
When those of us who have being doing it for so long that they no longer love it and have become od and resentful. They don't have any positivity about either the guest of the experience, and it's cancerous to those working with them. If you're not happy, leave. It's the best thing to do for everybody
What would be your perfect Scottish night out (Pub, Restaurants, Clubs etc)?
The standard George Street bar crawl one Edinburg. Start at one end in Voodoo Room and hit everyone on the way: Bramble, Lucky Liquor, Bon V, Tonic, Tiger Lily, Ricks, etc... then off to Fingers for a singalong on the piano, before a lock-in at Garibaldis (where i get to hit the dance floor and show off some moves on the stripper pole). Finished with a chicken kiev and a deep fried pizza at Cafe Picante.
What would be your perfect Scottish holiday?
Distillery and cheese farm tour of the Highlands and Islands with a couple of mates.
Who would be you in dream hospitality team?
Craig Harper, Gregor De Gruyther, Mike Aikman (even though he sucks at bartending, he's funny to watch), Craig Paterson and Stu McCluskey to “host”
How do you promote Scotland abroad?
Working in the world's best whisky bar with over 700 whiskies for almost 5 years. I can't think of a better way to promote our great country and its finest export
What is your favourite Scottish colloquialism/tradition?
The Scottish use of slang words is by far my favourite thing. The language we use with our friends, and the way we use it to build bonds, is like nowhere else.
“Lend us a fiver ya gobshite” "Geez a shwallie ya Dick”
I hope that as long as I live away from Scotland, I still keep my accent somewhat.
What do you miss most about Scotland?
The people, some of my friends and family are still there and I love going back to see them all. It doesn't get any easier leaving even though its been 7 years
What surprises you most about people abroad’s impressions of Scotland?
Nothing any more. At first people are always surprised that they can understand my accent. The stereotypes you come across can be pretty funny, but its good to change people's minds and expectations of the Scots and Scotland as a whole
Finally, what advice would you offer a young person/someone coming in to hospitality for the first time?
Find someone that you want to work for that is at the top of their game. We all need strong mentors to really develop us. I was really lucky to find a incredible group of people when was working at Po Na Na. The friends I made there, who went on to be my mentors and colleagues, changed where i was heading in life
Would you like to add anything else?
The Scottish hospitality scene is as good if not better than anywhere else. It's a community of people that keep pushing the boundaries, and not settling for anything less than world class. There was never any animosity if one bar was better than another; it was for the better of all of us and made us really try to be the best at what ever it was we were doing.