Still just 16-years-old, Phoebe Lawson shot onto the food scene after clinching the Springboard Future Chef competition last year. Now working under the star chef Kevin Dalgleish at Amuse whilst continuing her studies, we caught up with proud Scot Phoebe to discuss her incredible rise and dreams for the future.

When did your passion for food and cooking first begin?

It all started cooking in the kitchen with my dad. Nothing too fancy but helping out with some chopping, stirring and baking. It could be assisting with a roast dinner, helping to make a Spaghetti Bolognese or maybe a Victoria Sponge. My brother and I were always getting involved wherever we could.

How did the Springboard Future Chef opportunity come about?

I was studying Home Economics at school and my teacher Kirsty Wilson saw some talent in me and put me forward for the Springboard Future Chef competition. I didn’t really know what to expect but there were over 6,000 12–16-year olds competing. It was honestly an incredible experience and to make it to the final 12, and then win, was truly amazing.

What’s the plan now?

Since the Springboard Future Chef competition and the incredible journey I have been on since winning, it has definitely made me believe that a career in food is the one for me. I learnt so many skills along the way during the competition and just loved it, which crystalised my passion for cooking and a career in a professional restaurant. Since winning, the opportunities I have had and the doors that were opened have been immense. I have been able to experience so much and to cook at so many different places and with some incredible chefs – it’s changed my whole mindset about what a career in food can offer.

Where have you been and worked since the win? What doors did the win open for you?

It’s mad but I have worked at Ascot races alongside Michelin-starred chef Nieves Barragán, I helped cooked for the patrons at the 150th Golf Open at St Andrews, I’ve cooked for Compass Group, appeared at ScotHot, eaten at Adam Handling’s restaurant and even at Alain Roux’s, where I actually met him. It has been mind-blowing, especially considering I only turn 17 in September.

How did the competition improve you as a chef?

I was quite a messy chef prior to the competition so it taught me the key aspects of cooking and that it’s not just about the dishes you create, it’s about having a clean and tidy work area. It also pushed my knowledge and technique as I wasn’t just cooking dishes that were familiar to me. It tested me in different areas like butchery and knife skills. I had to really up my game and push myself to learn new skills and impress the judges.

How is it at Amuse?

It’s really enjoyable and it confirmed to me that I want to be a chef. The environment, the team, the comradery has been amazing. There is a view that a kitchen is super stressful and filled with people screaming but that is not the case. Everyone knows what they’re doing, they’re really kind, helpful and calm. The kitchen I am in is definitely the right one for me. The amount I learn each and every shift is brilliant and it’s opening my eyes to new ingredients and techniques. Seeing all the preparation that goes into all the dishes is eye-opening. When I first started, a lot of the prep was already done so it would just be assisting with the plating and getting plates ready for the pass. When I started to work more, seeing all the preparation that goes into creating these unique dishes is another world.

Is there favourite dish you have at the restaurant?

We do a risotto which is delicious and uses ingredients I hadn’t worked with before so it’s a great one to make, taste and plate up. Most dishes are certainly different to what I grew up eating. When I first went in, I remember being asked to put some caviar on the langoustine – two things I had never cooked or eaten before. Every shift I’m being taken out of my comfort zone which is boosting my knowledge and experience. Kevin also uses a lot of truffles, which again is an ingredient that is very expensive so I hadn’t really been able to use them before.

Tell us about the incredible charity work you have done?

I got in contact with my mentors and asked if I could get in touch with some of their suppliers to create food for some charities and homeless centres across Aberdeenshire. I managed to create over 400 meals with 400 of those being donated to a local charity near me called Far & Wide, who I help out. Far & Wide have charity shops but also have a food bank and are connected with a church where they provide social space and free meals to people in the area. I volunteer on Wednesdays and cook up some simple soup and sandwiches, which people can come in and enjoy. It provides social interaction but also gives people a place where they can be warm and enjoy a hot meal.

What ingredients are you loving right now?

I love berries so I am very much looking forward to the whole host of summer berries. I love the bakery side of cooking, being precise and making the presentation look exceptional so berries are a great ingredient for that. You can also do so much with them during the summer months as the various berries come into season.

What do you do to relax and switch off?

Rugby. Whether I’m playing, training or just watching – I love it and it’s a great way to let off steam and de-stress. Outside of that – sleeping when I get the chance.