Chef Neil McCue
An advocate of seasonal and local eating, Michelin-starred chef Neil McCue brings with him from the U.K. his obsession for using high quality ingredients and preparing them simply to let their characters shine through. Temporarily trading the stove for the pottery wheel, Neil is currently elbow deep in his exploration of the marriage between food and ceramics.
Neil McCue laid the groundwork for his culinary career while cooking alongside his grandmother in his hometown of Barnsley, England. To this day, the chef is inspired by her simple, ingredient-driven approach to food. However, it was when McCue began his culinary education at Barnsley Technical College in South Yorkshire that he truly fell in love with the kitchen. “The first day I went to college, I got my hands on a whole chicken and we had to [break it down],” he recounts. “As soon as I got my hands on that bird, it was one of those love affair moments.”
After finishing school, McCue worked at restaurants in England such as Chewton Glen in Hampshire and Auberge Du Lac in Hertfordshire, before coming to Canada at the age of 27 to become the sous chef at Cambridge, Ont.’s Langdon Hall. He spent six years in Canada, where he helped open Catch in Calgary and Square in Toronto.
Ultimately, a desire to attain Michelin star-ranking led the chef back home to England. It was while working at Curlew Restaurant in East Sussex that McCue achieved his goal, retaining a Michelin star for three years. His next goal was to open his own restaurant, so after talking to former colleagues from Calgary, McCue returned to Canada where he opened Whitehall in the Bridgeland neighbourhood of Calgary in late 2015. Named in part for the Palace of Whitehall in London, England, the restaurant features white tin ceilings and a pipework bar designed by McCue to reflect the style of an “old-school British bar” with a modern twist. The 82-seat restaurant is comprised of two distinct spaces, the lower dining room and bar — which offers both lunch and dinner — and the private dining room, dubbed “The Other Room.”
McCue says his pursuit of a Michelin star has shaped his culinary style. “If you put three perfect things on a plate, they can only judge you on those three perfect things,” he explains. “It really teaches you to strip back.”