Chef Ken MacDonald
Photo of Chef and article by Christine Fillat
What happens when a Scottish chef takes over the kitchen in the most exclusive hotel in St. Michaels on Maryland’s Eastern Shore? At Stars, the fine dining restaurant at the Inn At Perry Cabin, chef Ken MacDonald’s cuisine celebrates life on the Chesapeake. Expect lively dishes served up with super secret spice mixes and fresh produce, much of it grown on premises. Chef MacDonald grills seafood over wood fires and pizza is baked al fresco in a brick oven.
His cooking career began in Scotland and took him to The Ritz in London, and then to restaurants and resorts in South Africa, Australia, Washington State and San Francisco. At Stars, all those international influences come together in chef MacDonald’s foods.
The unexpected is welcome. Housemade preserved lemons find their way into a Caesar Salad. Jars of spice blends, such as Dukkah and Moroccan Ras El Hanout line the pantry shelves, at the ready to season meats or seafood or create a dip for bread.
Chef MacDonald is determined to serve the freshest food at Stars. Almost everything in the kitchen is sourced from no more that 150 miles away. This way, every dish is seasonal and supports local growers. This sensibility is great for the local economy, and the lucky diners who get to eat the best possible food.
One is tempted to want to hang out with chef MacDonald, just to listen to his stories in his lilting Scottish accent. His earliest culinary memory is of his grandmother making jars of marmalade and boysenberry jam. She was the housekeeper for the local minster, and Ken would spend his summers with her.
If chef MacDonald could have a meal with anyone in history, he would choose William Wallace, the thirteenth century Scottish knight who fought for independence from England. They would dine just before the battle. And what would they eat? “Haggis,” is the reply, the English pudding made from sheep’s internal organs. And after the meal, MacDonald would immediately time travel back to the present, safe from the war.
When chef MacDonald has time off from the day to day operations at Stars, he can be found hanging out with his wife and 10 year-old son paddle boarding, kayaking, cycling or exploring surfing beaches, listening to the tunes of 60’s and 70’s American soul music.
Chef MacDonald is someone who is known, in the United Kingdom’s Northern Soul Music circles, as a digger. He digs through thrift shops and yard sales, searching for the elusive original 45-rpm soul music records. His personal collection of 45s is in the thousands. He has been known to spin discs at special dance parties in Seattle, Detroit and San Francisco. It’s an underground movement, something Ken is passionate about and has a lot of fun with.
For the future of Stars, there will be an apiary coming next year, to provide the restaurant with homemade honey. The garden will continue to grow with more varieties of vegetables. “We’re trying to change things up,” says chef MacDonald, by keeping everything seasonal. Change is never easy, but the fruits of labor are sweet.
Below is a recipe from Chef Ken MacDonald’s kitchen.
NON-GMO SPLIT PEA SOUP WITH SMOKED BACON ENDS
· 2 cups washed and rinsed split peas
· 2 tbsp Herbes de Provence
· 2 tablespoons oil
· 4 garlic cloves peeled and minced
· 1 leek chopped
· 2 onions peeled and chopped
· 3 stalks of celery chopped
· 2 carrots peeled and chopped
· 8 cups vegetable stock
· 1 cup bacon ends
· Sea salt and pepper
In a large soup pan, add oil, heat and add all vegetables, herbs and bacon, turn down heat, place lid on pot and sweat for 15 minutes. Add split peas and stock, cook until peas are tender and season with salt and pepper. You can blend now or leave as is. Serve with crusty bread.
THE INN AT PERRY CABIN BY BELMOND
308 Watkins Lane, St. Michaels, MD 21663 410.745.2200 | belmond.com