Scottish chef living his dream

David Burt’s passion for his birthplace is evident as soon as he starts talking. Rebecca Fox discovers his Scottish accent has not diminished nor has his passion for Scottish-inspired food.

David Burt's ultimate goal has always been to own a restaurant.

David and Jacqueline Burt are settling into their new home and restaurant Bracken in Filleul St, Dunedin.  Photos: Craig Baxter
David and Jacqueline Burt are settling into their new home and restaurant Bracken in Filleul St, Dunedin. Photos: Craig Baxter
''I've always wanted it. It's every chef's dream,'' the Scottish chef says.

So when the opportunity to do so came up last year, he and wife Jacqueline left behind a newly-renovated house, jobs and the only home their two young children have known to move south to Dunedin.

The Burts had been living in Kaikoura since moving to New Zealand from the United Kingdom nine years ago.

They had never been to New Zealand, but decided to move to the North Canterbury seaside town with the aim of gaining New Zealand residency after their first attempt at buying a restaurant in the United Kingdom fell through.

''So we thought let's go. We worked hard for a year, saved up and came over here.''

Kaikoura was a good fit for the two hospitality professionals, who settled in, bought a house and had two children.

''It was easy, it's so beautiful. It just hooks you in.''

But that niggling desire to own his own place kept Burt scanning the internet whenever he had the chance.

Jacqueline decided to become a primary school teacher and returned to university by correspondence. Last year she got her first job as a teacher.

In among it all were the Kaikoura earthquakes in 2016, which resulted in the Burts' home being red-stickered. They lived in a sleep-out for a few weeks before moving into a friend's cottage.

Not long after moving back to their renovated home, Burt found an online listing for Dunedin's Bracken restaurant.

The pair drove down to meet owner-chef Ken McConnell, who achieved Dunedin's only ''2 hats'' in the Cuisine Awards, and by the time they had completed the seven-hour car trip home they had decided to go for it.

It ticked a lot of boxes - the lovely building, the ability to live upstairs, opportunities for their children and a city known for its Scottish heritage.

The big plus was living on site. It enabled Burt to spend more time with the family and the children to be involved in the business.

''You work long hours in a business like this and with the kids upstairs I can pop up and see them, kiss them good night and they can come down and ''help'' with prep.

''It's a lifestyle thing.''

It also means Jacqueline can pop down and help out when needed in the restaurant.

So their house in Kaikoura went on the market, the papers were drawn up and just before Christmas the family moved south.

''It was hard,'' Jacqueline says.

With the restaurant having bookings in the run-up to Christmas, the pair hit the ground running, but a quieter time over January has enabled them to put their own touch on the business.

The children are also settling into a new school and daycare.

Burt, who is from the Isle of Skye, is revelling in being able to design his own menu using locally available organic produce and transforming it with a little Scottish twist.

He has retained the four- and eight-course choices of the previous owner, but has included more options to cater to different tastes and dietary requirements.

The traditional gamey, strong, offal-based heavy Scottish dishes are used as flavours or seasoning in his dishes.

''I don't want to scare anyone away.

''I want to show my passion, my culture, on a plate. As a chef, I've cooked different styles of food - Italian, European, French - but now I want to get back to my roots.''

Each week the menu will change depending on what produce is available. Burt also makes his own ice creams and sorbets and any condiment he can.

''I just make a little at a time, so it's fresh.''

He has also pulled out a playlist of Scottish music to play in the background and is building up a stable of whiskys which are served alongside his dishes.

''Whisky is such a big culture in Scotland, I get upset when people abuse it. You have a couple and enjoy it. It's taken a long time to create.''

His passion for whiskey may have developed from growing up with a whisky distillery over the back fence of his family home.

''You could smell it every morning. Great for a wee boy growing up.''

His collection of Scottish swords and memorabilia have been installed on the restaurant's walls and the staff wear bow-ties in his family's Scottish tartan.

''I feel proud to show of my culture.''

Now they are settling in, they are keen to get more involved in the city's Scottish community and activities.

The pair, who met while Burt was working in Spain and Jacqueline was on holiday, are also keen to bring some ''Kaikoura time'' to dining in the city by encouraging diners to sit, eat and enjoy, rather than rush away.

''We want you to take your time, enjoy, have a coffee.''


Bracken's oatcakes

Makes 10-12

100g medium oatmeal
100g coarse oatmeal
100g fine oatmeal (rolled oats blitzed)
25g butter, melted
pinch of baking soda
½ tsp salt
4-7 tsp hot water

Heat oven to 150degC.

Mix the various oatmeals together. Take the mixed oatmeal and mix in the baking soda.

Melt the butter and blend with the oatmeal. To this mixture, slowly add enough hot water to make a smooth but stiff dough (has to be wetter than a bread dough or it will break).

Form the dough into a ball. Place a sheet of greaseproof paper on the counter and put the dough on it. Cover with another sheet of greaseproof paper.

Roll the dough between the sheets of greaseproof paper to your desired thickness. Either cut into triangles or use a cutter to cut desired shapes.

Transfer the shapes to a greaseproof paper-lined tray and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes until they dry out and harden. Do not allow them to become too brown.

Enjoy with cheese or a savoury topping.

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