According to the AA restaurant guide, three AA Rosettes are awarded to outstanding restaurants that achieve standards and demand recognition well beyond their local area. There are two other establishments that hold one AA Rosette, but Garry is the only chef in Angus to earn three.
For anyone who isn’t familiar with the dynamics of the restaurant, Garry works on his own in the kitchen with no assistance from supporting chefs. To achieve such impressive industry recognition is no mean feat with a big team but to do it flying solo is a massive achievement.
Garry explained: “Working on my own definitely has its challenges, especially at the three rosette level. I make everything from scratch from canapes to stocks, sauces, and bread right through to the handmade chocolates served with the coffee.
My preparation list is huge. However, working by myself (and being the perfectionist that I am) has its advantages. I know every job is done consistently to my exact specification - which is what inspectors and customers look for.”
Garry underwent a rigorous inspection process which judges restaurants on their standards of cooking, selection and use of the highest quality ingredients, flavour combinations, overall service, and a well-chosen wine list - all of which must be consistently at the top of the calibre expected.
Garry said: “The inspectors visit unannounced every year for a dinner and overnight accommodation so we have no idea when they are in until they announce themselves the following morning.
An in-depth report discussion is made with the chef which is nerve-racking waiting until the end to see if I have retained the award - almost like getting your school report.”
The award-winning chef told ACP what it meant to him, the restaurant and to the local community to be recognised for his sterling efforts at Gordon’s.
Garry said: “I am delighted that all my hard work has been recognised over the years especially by the highly respected AA guide. Three AA Rosettes was one of my goals since becoming a chef and delighted to hold the accolade for ten consistent years.”
He added: “Three AA Rosettes is a hugely respected award amongst chefs in the industry. It's also a fantastic achievement for the restaurant as it puts us amongst the very finest elite restaurants in the UK and encourages customers to travel from far and wide to visit us. This also helps other local tourist attractions and businesses.”
Gordon’s was founded in 1986 by Garry’s parents Gordon and Maria Watson and he found himself with big boots to fill when Dad Gordon sadly passed away. Garry now runs the entire operation supported by Mum Maria who ably runs the front of house.
Speaking about how his career took shape, Garry said: “My father Gordon was a Maître D’ and self-taught chef, and my mother Maria was a professionally trained pastry chef. I grew up above the family restaurant and have lived and breathed hospitality my whole life.”
Garry’s career has flourished since those childhood days, and he is proud of his grass roots level training. Serving his family and Scotland proud, he has gone on to become one of the country’s most respected chefs.
“At 17, I enrolled as a student at Dundee Catering College and worked alongside some amazing chef lecturers. I absolutely loved it so I qualified to become a lecturer too. I've mentored many students who have gone on to achieve great things. Some of them now run their own restaurants and some have appeared on BBC MasterChef: The Professionals.
Whilst lecturing I also worked in the family business at nights and weekends. It was a busy time in my life, but it helped us build it up to where it is today.”
During his career, Garry entered and won several prestigious cooking competitions. One of his highlights was being the youngest ever winner of Scottish Chef of the Year at Scothot 2003 at just 26. He was also selected to be part of the Scottish Culinary Olympic team to compete at the World Culinary Olympics which were held in Erfurt, Germany and picked up an impressive silver medal.
Garry has also worked in several high-end rosette-rated and Michelin-starred kitchens honing his skills and learning the latest trends in cookery and presentation. The experience has served him well in the way he runs his restaurant and in gaining trust from his regular customers and achieving this industry recognition.
Despite his obvious success and talent, Garry remains grounded and grateful for the opportunities he has been given. He said: “Being a chef is an amazing career. It's exciting and I’m constantly learning so I never get bored. I’ve been so lucky to travel to fantastic places all over the world to demonstrate modern Scottish cookery. I’ve also been privileged to eat in some unbelievable establishments, meeting wonderful people in the industry who have become close friends.”
As a destination restaurant, Gordon’s also has rooms, allowing patrons to enjoy the full gastro experience without having to worry about transport home. Maintaining high standards throughout, Gordon’s holds five gold stars for their boutique accommodation.
Garry is a regular contributor to our food and drink section, The Kitchen Corner.
Don’t miss his top tips next week.