Five minutes with Maple chef ambassador, Peter McKenna

Last month, Maple From Canada ambassador, Peter McKenna, paid a visit to the Liquid office in Birmingham where he cooked up some delicious maple-infused recipes in our development kitchen. 

Peter co-owns 3 AA Rosette restaurant, The Gannet in Glasgow, and his passion for the hospitality industry led him to win Chef of the Year 2020 at the Staff Canteen Awards.

While he was visiting us, we stole a quick five minutes with Peter to find out a bit more about his childhood foodie memories, his dream dinner party guests, and his love of maple syrup.

Who inspired you to start cooking and why?

I was extremely lucky to have a mother who was incredibly talented in the kitchen. We ate Indian, Greek, Italian, and Irish staples growing up, which was very rare in rural Ireland in the 1980’s. I think I also have to mention Keith Floyd – when I was a young boy I was amazed by his hunger for travel and cooking in unusual places all over the world. He was always a joy to watch. 

What is your favourite foodie memory from your childhood? 

I can always remember the summer holidays I used to have at my granny’s house in a little village in Ireland, called Emyvale, where I went with my cousins when I was about eight or nine years old. While we were there, we went fishing in the water at the back of the house, catching trout and pike. My grandmother would fillet the fish and then I was allowed to cook the fish, we always had it with seasonal vegetables from my grandfather’s vegetable patch. My childhood memory of food always goes back to that – my grandmother always made great food. 

What is the most memorable restaurant you’ve eaten at? 

When I was working in Australia, I went to Liam Tomlin’s Banc and had a meal which absolutely blew my mind – it was the best food I’d ever tasted and definitely one of the most memorable meals of my life. I actually ended up getting a job in Banc after that, where I worked in the kitchen for a couple of years, which ultimately made my career and turned me into the chef I am today. 

How do you incorporate maple syrup into your recipes?

I use maple syrup for all sorts of things throughout my menu. I use it for curing, dressings, sauces – it’s extremely versatile and once you start using it, it’s hard to get away because it’s very moreish! One of my favourite recipes is scallops – I make a cure with maple sugar, open the scallops, rinse them, and put the maple cure on them. These are then served with a Granita whiskey sour which is made using apple juice, lime zest, lime juice, and amber maple syrup.

What is your foodie guilty pleasure? 

After service, I love toasting some bread, coating it in hummus and rose harissa, and topping it with a tin of chilli sardines. And of course, I have to wash it down with a cold beer!

Which three celebrities, dead or alive, would you invite to your dinner party?

Number one would be Anthony Bourdain – I don’t think I even need to explain why he would make an incredible dining companion. Imagine being able to listen to his wild stories of eating all around the world, over an evening of good food and wine.

My second guest would be Nick Cave. I really love the depth of his artistry, from his lyrics, scores, and skill for live performance. I’d love to be able to share some of the foods I love with him and maybe he could sit behind a piano and play me a tune or two!

Finally, I would invite Patrick Kavanagh, one of Ireland’s greatest poets who wrote about the epic in the mundane. I would love to just sit back and listen to the three of them in deep conversation – who knows what direction the night would take.

Peter has also been a guest on Maple From Canada’s ‘Always in Season’ podcast, which celebrates the very best of seasonal and sustainable eating. You can listen to Peter’s episode ‘Serving seasonality’ here.