IT’S an industry often associated with hot-headed chefs bellowing instructions over the clatter of the kitchen.
But it’s safe to say Bruce Price isn’t one to let tired stereotypes stand in his way.
The three-time Scottish Chef of the Year has been profoundly deaf since birth, and never learned sign language due to his mother’s belief it would hold him back.
Now, at the age of 52, he oversees a brigade of 45 chefs across six separate restaurants at Crieff Hydro, where he has been executive chef for nearly five years.
Speaking to The Sunday Post, the dad-of-two insisted he had never brooded over his disability.
“I have never, ever let my deafness restrict my ambition to become a great chef,” he added.
“I have never seen it as a disadvantage.”
And his staff attest to his calm, collected demeanour in the kitchen – more likely to be seen having a quiet word with someone than screaming across the hobs.
While the day’s business is written out on a whiteboard every morning, communication in the kitchen is mostly verbal, with Bruce lip-reading and staff quickly learning to understand his spoken instructions.
Born in Blenheim, New Zealand, Bruce has a twin brother called Andrew who is also profoundly deaf and a pastry chef.
After leaving school at 17, he landed his first full-time job as a kitchen porter – sparking a love affair with food that has lasted ever since.
“I started relatively late, and was first into technical drawing at school,” he said. “It’s the team and the camaraderie within the kitchen that I like. If you’re an architect or you’re going into art school, you’re just sitting there at a desk. I enjoy that buzz, working with a team.
“And I think there are obvious parallels with technical drawing and cooking. You’re ‘engineering’ a dish, making it functional, and obviously making it look easy on the eye.
“My mum was into good, home-cooked food. And my dad was into the garden side of it – growing vegetables, and tending to the greenhouse with the tomatoes in it. I first saw a lobster at home.”
As Bruce describes it, his mother wanted to “push him, make him stronger”.
Rather than signing his thoughts and ideas, he speaks them – occasionally writing things down for greater clarity.
And while new staff sometimes take a couple of weeks to fully understand him, his kitchen otherwise functions like any other.
Pal Shawn O’Connor, banqueting head chef at Crieff Hydro, has worked with Bruce for 14 years.
He said: “I don’t think you notice it. I sit and have full-blown conversations with Bruce about anything. There’s some words you get stuck on, but that’s it.
“Chefs are typically hot-headed and they do get stressed, but Bruce is the exception to that.”
Since his early days in New Zealand, Bruce has cooked all over the world, from Australia to Switzerland, China, Taiwan and now Scotland.
He’s worked in more than 10 restaurants and gained valuable experience with Michelin-starred chefs.
But his current role holds a special place in his heart.
He said: “Crieff Hydro is not just a family-friendly place for guests – and an award-winning one – but it’s also a place with a great family feeling among staff.
“In a word, my role here is busy. There are six eating places across the resort and functions on top of that. Each eating place has its own head chef and some have satellite kitchens.
“We have 45 chefs working in the main kitchen.
“That’s a lot of people and eating places to manage, but I love that I get to oversee a range of different food outlets and offerings.
“With so many different restaurants, there are several different styles.
“I don’t really have a signature dish as such but I do have my favourites.
“There are dishes I like to put on menus regularly, such as Venison Wellington with haggis, and homemade Hendricks Gin and juniper berry cured Shetland salmon.
“I love all kinds of shellfish and also game. Being in Scotland we really have the best of these in the world.”
As for those who want to follow in his footsteps, Bruce insists determination is key.
“If you want to become a chef you need to think of it as a profession rather than a job,” he said. “This isn’t a Monday to Friday, nine to five thing.
“You need to be dedicated to learning your craft and that takes long hours.
“Sometimes it can mean sacrificing family time but if it’s your passion, it is very worth it.”
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