The richness of this larder on our doorstep is a feverish discussion and so is the lack of recognition which Scottish producers receive for unequivocally some of Europe’s finest raw ingredients, dishes and drinks (no bias here). In Chef Diaries Scotland, Roca Brothers Joan, Josep & Jordi set out to get an inkling of the delicacies of a £15 billion industry – from tattie scones to scallops, from Aberdour to Shetland and from Spain to Scotland.
Between them, the Roca brothers share three Michelin stars and the accolades for the best restaurant in 2013 and 2015, among some other throwaway titles such as world’s best chef and pastry chef. In short: they sort of know their stuff. There is always more to learn, and no society on earth has a humbleness to the glories we can concoct like the Scottish.
Capturing Scottish landscapes is challenging; while natural beauty aids in capturing an element of majesty, framing a genuine form is difficult. Luckily, Álex García Martínez’s direction of photography envisions every capable angle of Scottish history, culture and even key differences in communities. From the grafting butcher to the lordly manor with his gamekeepers, one thing is concurrent for their direction: to reflect a real Scotland (weather included).
There’s an asymmetry of kitchen aesthetics. Chef Diaries isn’t seeking to gain a slot on Good Food TV, but rather demonstrate a passion for the nation, as well as it’s food. At first, it’s a teasing, tempting decision where we hunger for a pay-off. This climax, however, only arrives in the closing credits. The focus is on the brothers, their relationship with the industry and the people of Scotland – but sometimes when the craving strikes, we need to see the exceptional treats from the edible garden.
Austerity – the buzzword of our political time – is the mother of decisive innovation in the Scottish kitchen. There is no sugar-coating history by Otálora and Martí Roca, no doubt in appreciation of the country’s reliance on scraps, offal and thrift in making a meal last. A thematic colour palette, Martínez’s visual style contains muted greys, greens, and blacks, starkly contrasting the vibrancy of colourful dishes.
Craftsmanship of engaging cinematic credits appears to be ebbing away in general. Nowhere, though, is Martínez’s direction of photography finer than in these closing shots. Accompanying this, Can Sons’ score balances sublime shots with delicate musical composition, marrying an aural feast with a visual one. Rounding off the Roca brothers’ dishes from their trips, a full menu of nothing short of food pornography is unveiled. As we salivate over the long-desired creations teased, we recognise each component from the people, places and farms of the nation. Chef Diaries Scotland does more than build a hunger in the gut – it fuels a nationalist pride in the bones (without the use of politics).
Rooting itself in the lack of boundaries that food offers, the film explains how a national dish can comprise South Asian spices, complemented by Swedish and Peruvian vegetables, and yet still remain as Scottish as haggis. There is such modesty in the food and drink we have, with so many ingredients we export, to be sent away to Asia for processing – only for those same langostines to end up back on Scottish shelves. Chef Diaries Scotland is so much more than just about Spanish chefs. It’s about culture, history and a diversity bridged by the one thing we all adore: grub.