Establishing itself as one of the best steakhouses in the north-east, it’s no wonder Porterhouse Steak Restaurant attracts clientele far and wide.
Arriving at the Thainstone venue three years ago, it was the opportunity to put his own stamp on the restaurant’s offering that attracted head chef Victor Garcia to place his roots firmly in the area.
Originally from Tenerife, the talented chef was first inspired to get hands on in the kitchen by his mother, who would cook up Mediterranean feasts for him and his family.
Starting his career at the age of 16, he travelled around the Mediterranean working in various countries in Europe including his homeland.
Looking for a change of scene – and a completely different climate – Victor headed for Scotland 13 years ago where he served under various well-known Scottish chefs, such as Tom Kitchin, before setting his eyes on a move north.
Leading his team at the restaurant, which prides itself on using local produce and its field-to-fork ethos, Victor has now cemented his unique style of bringing a Mediterranean touch when plating up the north-east’s finest produce.
You’ve been a chef since you were 16 – what was it that spurred you on to work in the industry?
It all started when I watched my mother cooking when I was a young boy and I was really inspired by her. I developed a passion for cooking after learning so much from watching my mother cook all these amazing dishes for our family.
I’ve worked across Europe in Spain, Tenerife and so many other places. I came to Scotland 13 years ago and worked in Edinburgh in many Michelin-standard venues. I worked with Tom Kitchin and other well-known Scottish chefs, too, when I was in Edinburgh for 10 years.
I was looking for a change and ended up in Aberdeenshire at Porterhouse. I’d always had a passion for cooking and the more I cooked the more I fell in love with it. From having no experience I built up my skills with every job and have worked my way up to head chef.
It sounds like you love being a chef. What makes Porterhouse so special?
The reason I decided to stay here was because I’ve seen so many opportunities here and it’s a place where both myself and the venue can grow.
It’s been a great journey and I really enjoy working here. I’ve worked really hard to build up the restaurant’s reputation, and it’s still growing, which is great. I’m very proud of that.
Is supporting local important to you?
I support local producers as much as possible. The products we get in are so fresh and really high quality, which is very important to a chef. We’ve got so many local producers on our doorstep and it’s fantastic to see so many become so successful. For our beef, we use Scotch beef and we use a berry supplier in Turriff and Kings Foods for our fish.
Speaking of beef, you’re well-known for your incredible steak offering – talk to us about that.
I think what we do here is mainly classic cuisine. It’s a steakhouse and we cook all our produce with respect and care. The whole concept of the food we serve and the standard we serve it at is very much appreciated by our customers.
The Tomahawk steak is very popular at the restaurant and always creates that wow-factor for diners. Chateaubriand is also in demand and makes for a great sharing dish. The beef is dry aged on the bone for 21 to 28 days and I always check the quality of all the meat when I buy it. I go and handpick the meat we get in every Wednesday and select and collect the meat to ensure the highest quality.
We flame-chargrill all of our steaks and they’re very well received by our customers.
It’s so important for customers to enjoy their experience here and we’ve got a lot of popular dishes like lamb, fish and we do have vegan and gluten-free menus, too. It’s important to accommodate everyone and meet everyone’s needs.
You’re about to launch a new menu, what can customers expect?
We’re in the process of changing the menu just now to our autumn menu. We focus on what’s in season and what people actually want to eat. It needs to complement the area and what the locals want. It’s local produce that’s in season.
We’ll have a beef dish, a lamb shank dish and lots of root vegetables. We’ll also have a ham hock arancini, a duck starter with goat’s cheese and red pepper, and one of my favourite mains is the leek and mushroom wellington. There’s a braised beef dish with honey roast parsnips and it’s just delicious.
I take techniques I’ve learned and my knowledge of my seasonality to create the different menus and this menu very much reflects that.
Porterhouse runs a lot of gourmet events – can you tell us more about this?
It’s very exciting in the kitchen when we get to do our events. All the courses are paired with a selection of wines for the dishes and it’s great fun getting to do that and the whole team enjoy it. The events are always really well attended and it’s so good getting to see so many different people in enjoying the food.
We also have a function room downstairs where there can sometimes be as many 400 people as well as a full restaurant so it can be very busy and a lot of hard work but it’s a good place to be.
And what would you say is the best part of your job?
Every day is different and a challenge. I’ve not stopped learning and every day I learn something new.
I get to work alongside a fantastic team and I need to match my passions with their passions to drive the business to be as successful as it can be. It’s important to all have one vision and push forward with that.
You’ve got to love your job as a chef. You do it for the love of it and because you’re so passionate.
I absolutely love my team, they are one of the best teams I’ve worked with. Everyone gets on well and we all have the same goals in mind. It makes my job much more enjoyable getting to work with them. We all know what we want to achieve and it’s great to have their support, too.
I’ve got six chefs in my team and I have others who work part-time. When I need additional help we’ll call in agency chefs which can be really helpful, too.