As a former winner of an Albert Roux scholarship, it’s no surprise that Paulo Neves is passionate about his food.
The 53-year-old, originally from Portugal, won the prestigious competition while completing a catering course at the Borders College in Galashiels.
Paulo, now living in Melrose, impressed Roux with his knowledge of ingredients, his devotion to detail and, most importantly, his passion for flavour.
His early years in Portugal gave him a lifelong love of its food, and he has married that with his new-found adoration of Scottish dishes.
He brings that unique marriage of styles to the historic Clovenfords Hotel as he settles into his new head chef post.
For instance, along with traditional fish and chips and a rather extreme burger challenge, you’ll find a list of affordable tapas dishes.
It’s also hoped that the 85-cover restaurant will soon be once again providing a Sunday carvery, something the Cloven, as it’s known for short, has been famous for previously.
He said: “Our menu is mostly traditional Scottish food presented in a modern way, with some flavours from the Mediterranean as well.
“It is important to me that all our ingredients are fresh and locally-sourced. It makes sense on every level.”
Paulo, an experienced cook before coming to these shores, told us why he decided to go back to school once over here.
He said: “At the time, I had no real idea about British or Scottish cuisine, so I wanted to gain a better understanding of it, hence the course.
“Winning the competition was a real shock to me, but it showed I was doing something right.
“The college course is really good, and there is a lot of good, young talent here in the Borders because of it.”
In fact, Paulo has two of them in his kitchen – former classmate Hilary Bell and fellow ex-Borders College student Lee Casson.
Hilary, of Selkirk, is soon to head to pastures new after securing a job at the Buccleuch Arms in St Boswells, but Paulo hopes he will be able to once again make use of the source of talent that is the college.
Paulo was one of three students to win Albert Roux scholarships in 2013, the others being Lynn Frizzell, of Galashiels, and Andrew Thompson, of Earlston,