Alasdair Riley Buccleuch Arms Hotel

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ST BOSWELLS chef Alasdair Riley only returned to professional cooking in April, but says he has fallen in love with it for keeps this time.

The 34-year-old chef de partie at The Buccleuch Arms Hotel in St Boswells has returned ‘home’ – he started as a commis chef at the award-winning hotel when he was 21. After two years he moved on to doing ‘a bit of everything’ at the King’s Arms Hotel in Melrose before leaving with the head chef after a few months to work in Galashiels.

But, said Mr Riley: “There was a lot of bought-in stuff and it was not what I wanted to do, and I lost the passion.”

He moved to Edinburgh and worked in security for seven years.

Now living in Galashiels, Mr Riley said of his work: “It’s a challenge and I like a challenge. I’m a lot more passionate about my cooking now that I’ve come back.”

He particularly enjoys cooking fish dishes as his proposed main course will testify. His competition starter will be pan-fried wood pigeon, black pudding and home-cured pancetta with a sherry vinaigrette on a crisp salad.

A seafood saffron risotto with mussels, king prawns, cod and salmon will form the main.

He told us: “Since I first started trying it, I have modified it and the dish I’ve got now is perfect – it’s got the taste of the sea.”

He will finish with a tangy citrus parfait, ginger tuile biscuit and fresh berry compote.

“When you are cooking you’re thinking of new ideas, new dishes and changing menus: your customers are the most important people, you have got to think how you can please them. The head chef Gareth Gilder is brilliant – he says: “If you have got a good idea we’ll run with it’.”

Concerning the competition, Mr Riley said: “If I won, it would make me extremely happy and show how far I have come in my six months back in the kitchen.”

His ambition? “I would like to run a kitchen one day and have people loving my food.”