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A photograph of Jim Cowie

Jim Cowie

To us it had seafood restaurant written all over it

Born: 1949

Duration: 43m 0s

Type: Audio

Filesize: 39.8 Mb

Recorded: 13 January 2023

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About this recording

Jim Cowie was born in Helmsdale and still classes himself as "a proud Helmie", although he has spent most of his life in Caithness - first in the fishing industry and then as owner and chef of the multi-award-winning Captain's Galley seafood restaurant in Scrabster.

In this interview, Jim explains how at the age of 52 he enrolled at Thurso College to train as a chef. He also describes the painstaking work that went into sympathetically restoring the historic ice house and salmon bothy at Scrabster harbour: "To us it had seafood restaurant written all over it."

The Captain's Galley would go on to win national awards and gain recognition internationally, with its commitment to high-quality local produce and an ethos of sustainability.

Jim's wife Mary was integral to the success of the business. Jim highlights the invaluable contribution of their local staff and how teamwork was always at the heart of it. "I could trust them and I knew that they were doing their absolute best," he says, adding: "We had a really fantastic local support."

The accolades were "quite humbling", according to Jim, although he says modestly: "There was no magic. We were getting all our fish locally. We weren't doing anything special. Anybody could have done what we were doing.

"We got to the stage where if a fish wasn't landed at Scrabster we didn't have it on the menu. I used to joke to people that the food miles on our supplies was me walking from the fish market to the restaurant with my fish in a supermarket bag!

"To me, seasonality is the key to sustainability - and if we eat everything in season, the fish stocks are a lot healthier and we're a lot healthier."

The Captain's Galley is now under new ownership.

Jim also talks about running a fish factory in Wick's Bank Row, in premises that are now part of the Wick Society and known as Cowie's Yard.

The photograph shows Jim at his home in Watten, in front of some of his large collection of seafood recipe books.


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