Chef Of The Month April 2018: Gary McDermott

Gary McDermott ,
The Assembly Restaurant at Rickerby Retreat

Like many chefs, my journey to Head Chef began with a schoolboy pot-washing job to earn a little extra cash!  My early days at The Salutation Inn, Framwellgate Moor, Durham set me in good stead and over the last 20 years, I've enjoyed working with top chefs in the North of England and overseas.

At the tender age of 18, with 3 years at The Salutation, pot-washing and running service in Chef's absence under my belt,  I moved to Durham.    Here I joined Terry Laybourne's 21 Hospitality Groups working at Bistro 21 under Head Chef, Tom Jackson. Under the additional guidance of Head Pastry Chef, Claire Armstrong I found my love for this section.   A fantastic 2 years in Pastry combined with a good solid kitchen education gave me a strong career foundation. 

Next stop was The York Arms at Pateley Bridge to work with Michelin star chef, Francis Atkin. Four years under her expert tutelage developed my passion for the kitchen and great food. This was a kitchen where anything less than 110% was frowned upon!  Under this great mentorship, I rose through the kitchen ranks to Senior Sous Chef, second only to Francis and the Head Chef.

Packing my bags with this great experience, I headed off to East Asia and Australia, working in various kitchens and picking up inspirational ideas along the way - a journey which has influenced my cooking style ever since.  

I returned to the UK in 2014, taking a position at Rockcliff Hall, the 5 star Golf and Spa Hotel at Darlington.  Working with Paul Bussey, the Head Chef of The Orangery Restaurant as his Sous Chef.  The restaurant had 3 Rosettes and the next 2 happy years were spent cooking fantastic food and making great friends.

On leaving Rockcliff, I headed for the Lake District and Lancrigg Hall at Grasmere, serving vegetarian cuisine and adding a further string to my bow.  In mid 2017, I moved to The Assembly Restaurant at Rickery Retreat.

Rickerby Retreat had been badly damaged in the devastating floods of 2015.  As you can imagine, this was a real blow to owners Daniel and Rachel Ferguson, who had won many Awards leading up to this time, with the restaurant being recognised as Carlisle's best restaurant.   With true British spirit, Daniel and Rachel set about restoring the Retreat and Assembly Restaurant to its former glory,  Determined to get it right, they didn't rush and today that patience has paid off.  Since the re-opening in 2017, they have been recognised by the Michelin Guide with a Chef's Table overlooking the River Eden recently added.  Visit to explore what's on offer!




A carpaccio of Scottish Red Venison Loin with Parsnip Blackberries and Shaved Perigord Truffle.

Scotish Red Venison Loin

2 Parsnips

4 Pickled Shimishi Mushroom

3 Pickled Blackberries

3 Perigord Truffle Slices

White Truffle Mayonnaise

Sea Salt

Crushed Juniper Berries




Crushed Black Pepper Corns

1pt Chicken Stock



1                  Mix the salt, juniper, thyme, coarsely chopped garlic, coriander and crushed black pepper and make in to a dry cure. Rub into the venison loin and leave to cure for 36min wash off and seal in a very hot pan. Roll in cling film and chill.

2                 Braise 1 of the Parsnip in Chicken stock when al dente shave with a knife and dehydrate for 24hrs. Deep fry until crisp.

3                 With the other Parsnip make a fine Julienne and season with sea salt, leave to stand for 5 mins rinse under cold water dry and lightly coat with the Truffle Mayo.

4                 Place on the plate 4 fine slices of Venison Loin, 3 dots of Mayo and arrange the rest of the ingredients to taste.