We follow the road round until we arrive at a jetty which prevents us driving any further. In front of us is open water and the slipway gently disappears into the lapping waters. Directly behind us with this fantastic view as a vantage point is Michael’s restaurant, Loch Bay.
Michael Smith is a Michelin starred chef and he has been based on the Isle of Skye since 2004. He joins us on the jetty with his dog Willow. Michael, sporting a beanie, fleece, shorts, yellow socks and walking boots smiles and says, “Right then, where do you want me?” We decide to turn and head back to the restaurant. Michael is preparing a dish for us with the produce from the people we visited on Skye a few days earlier, including David’s Sponsor Scallops, Chris and Nanette’s Skye Sea Salt and Bridget’s Glendale Salads. As we walk he says, “These local ingredients have had so much care and attention, so all I have to do is to bring them together practicing virtues of restraint... doing less not more.”
Michael is passionate about allowing his ingredients to do the talking. He carefully chooses his suppliers saying, “I’ve worked with quality produce up and down the country, but what is different here is the integrity, the love, the care and the fact that I know each supplier personally.” This way of life is a long way from where he started having first experienced commercial kitchens aged 16 in his home city of Inverness. He says, “I was only a part time KP but loved the energy of the kitchen, I was hooked from then.”
He spent a few years working in Scotland before heading to the bright lights of London, where he worked for a number of high profile chefs and in world famous restaurants before making the move back up north to Glasgow. It was here that a chance meeting with a restaurant owner brought him to Skye to work at the established restaurant ‘The Three Chimneys’. He says, “Moving to Skye was a huge decision for us as a family. We were used to the city life but the opportunity to live and access this amazing environment was too much of a pull.” He took the reputation of the restaurant to new heights getting listed amongst the top 50 restaurants in the world and gaining a Michelin Star in 2014. Then in 2015, the opportunity to take over the nearby Loch Bay arose and he jumped at the chance.
One thing he’d built up over the years in Skye is a strong relationship with suppliers. “Businesses support other businesses that are neighbours. This isn’t just because they are close but because they consistently deliver amazing produce and that makes my life easy,” Michael says, as he places the dish he’s prepared for us on the table. The ingredients lay elegantly on the white plate. Carefully chosen baby leaf and micro herbs sit on the pan seared scallops, which have been flash fried with lemon and butter and have a drizzle of beurre blanc sauce, finished with a pinch of Skye sea salt over the top. Nothing is there that doesn’t need to be and all the ingredients are sourced from within 26 miles of the table where we sit.
The Loch Bay menu is the result of many different individuals love and effort in their own producing. Michael cleverly brings these flavours together celebrating the different tastes in a collective plate of beautiful tasting food. He says as we finish the dish smiling and nodding with delight, “Food is about enjoyment. It’s also about generosity and because of that it should be handled responsibly.” Michael does both with consummate ease.