Having won one of the most popular and well-known series of MasterChef in 2016, (judge Marcus Wareing declared that Maclean had ‘nailed the flag of Scotland to the mast of the MasterChef kitchen’), Maclean is now a chef lecturer at the City of Glasgow College. The long waiting list for his professional cookery course is evidence of how successful and appealing a chef he is, and also what a fine teacher and mentor to young chefs. He has also worked as head chef in a variety of restaurants in Glasgow. He is ‘hailed as a major talent, a gentleman of the kitchen, a world class educator and one who could step into a three Michelin-star kitchen and feel at home.’
He was certainly at home in Dollar Academy’s Dining Hall and he no doubt inspired some young chefs in the Dollar Academy community. His demonstration to Prep 4 in the Dining Hall was a huge hit. Pupils surged into the Dining Hall to see Maclean, in his white MasterChef tunic, standing behind a magnificent array of mostly unidentifiable vegetables—exotically coloured and wildly shaped.
A colourful and hugely entertaining personality, Maclean proceeded to lead a lively discussion about food whilst preparing a marinade for his renowned chicken tikka and then slicing and dicing the neon-pink dragonfruit, the mangosteen, the spiky red rambutan and the sweet champagne watermelon on the table before him. As slices of the Chinese and South American fruit went round for sampling (amidst wide smiles and a few grimaces), he implored them to focus on what they loved and figure out how to make a living from that—that’s what he did, after all. Reminding them that they didn’t have to like everything, but they did have to try everything, he told them how his own children (he has five at home in Glasgow) regularly snacked on blanched broccoli, ‘It’s sweet and crunchy and delicious!’ he said. Many of them looked quite ready to give up their muffins and snack bars on his advice.
As the day went on, Maclean delivered two further, equally energetic talks to groups of pupils in the Home Economics Department and, at lunchtime, he was in the Dining Hall signing chef hats, running a herb challenge, making smoothies and offering out his chicken tikka. It was a busy, delicious and very enthralling lunch hour.
Nicola Sturgeon recently appointed Maclean Scotland’s first national chef and his role is to celebrate national produce and teach communities how to make the most of locally sourced, healthy and affordable food. He is certainly passionate about food, saying, ‘I’m sure my passion for education will also help to promote the benefits that Scottish produce can have on a healthy diet and will help to change our relationship with locally sourced and produced food.’ It was in that spirit that he came to Dollar and if his success at the school is any indication, Maclean will have a great impact on the tastes and eating habits of Scotland’s youth.