EXECUTIVE chef Kenny Leary – from Tinto Hotel in Biggar – won Vegan Chef of the Year at The Scottish Food Awards 2018.

The nomination and win comes off the back of the hotel’s vegan dinner evenings, which have been growing rapidly in popularity.

The nights were started after it was brought to the hotel’s attention that there was a distinct lack of variety for vegetarians and vegans in more rural areas. It was found that vegetarians and vegans had to go to the larger cities of Edinburgh or Glasgow for a full meat-free experience.

Kenny has been at the heart of Tinto Hotel’s kitchen for three years and has been developing the ever-changing vegan night menu since its inception. Kenny changes the menu on each vegan evening event to try and encourage guests to try something new and perhaps out of their comfort zone.

Kenny said: “To win the award was a great surprise as it certainly wasn’t expected. To be recognised for covering a food area that most chefs shy away from is so pleasing for our team at Tinto and proves that taking on a challenge can be rewarding.

“Having now been involved in researching and producing the vegan evening menus for some time now, I feel my understanding of a vegan diet has vastly improved and really opened my eyes to this type of cuisine.

“Vegan diets are amongst the most nutrient-dense around and especially high in dietary fibre, magnesium, potassium, vitamins C and E, folate and most other phytochemicals, which is why we will continue to give vegan food a prominent place in our forthcoming menus at the Tinto Hotel.”

Team members and the managing director have all expressed excitement for Kenny, all commenting on how hard-working and deserving he is of the nomination and win.

Brian Robinson, managing director, said: “Since purchasing Tinto Hotel in July 2014, I was very aware that we needed to put a lot of love and dedication back into the hotel and we set about investing in the hotel with refurbishment and installing our new biomass heating system.

“Alongside this, I was very aware we needed to also invest in our team, and I was thrilled Kenny joined us three years ago.

“During this time, Kenny and his team have been working on improving our menus and food presentation. Kenny suggested that we start a vegan night once a month and the rest is history, the comments have been outstanding and we are very proud of the achievements of Kenny and his team.

“We are very much a hotel and cater for everyone. However, we were keen to offer something new to the area, frustratingly a somewhat forgotten, but beautiful part of Scotland; we wanted to attract people to the area and viewed a vegan night as a good way to do this.

“This recognition is outstanding and well deserved by Kenny, who views this very much as a team effort. I am immensely proud of each of our team and very excited about the future of the hotel and our plans to develop the hotel further and importantly attract people to the area.”

Try the award-winning chef’s food at the next vegan dinner evening on June 13 at the Tinto Hotel just outside Biggar. The four-course tasting menu costs £25pp.