Hayley Wilkes was a chef at Gleneagles resort before she set herself up as a freelance cook offering private dining services and event catering. Three years ago, Broughty Golf Club offered her a kitchen and a remarkable partnership began, underpinned by delicious, award-winning pies.
Local Legends - Hayley Wilkes
Name: Hayley Wilkes
Role: Head Chef / Owner of WeeCOOK (based at Broughty Golf Club in Monifieth)
Handicap: Room for improvement!
Club: Broughty Golf Club (honorary member)
Tell us how you got involved with the golf club?
“A lot of the members liked local food and I got to know them at famers’ markets. The club hadn’t had a caterer for three years – they used caterers from other clubs or a nearby hotel. So they offered me their kitchen. It’s a chef’s dream to have their own kitchen, so I based myself here, continued with the Forfar farmers’ markets and private work, and provided a catering service to the golf club. It worked for both parties. We built it up from nothing.
It’s been great. We’ve had a five-star food review in The Telegraph newspaper and a review in The Courier. My apprentice won The Courier’s Menu magazine’s rising talent award. We also won the BBC Good Food Show Producer’s Bursary Award for our pies.
“We sell pies through the window – we call it the Pie Flap. Golfers and passers-by come along and ask what pies we have on today. The flap is right next to the pie machine, so the pies are always freshly out of the oven. In the summer, we set a pie stall up next to the bacon rolls and I put up a sign saying Pies This Way!”
What do you most enjoy about your work?
“I like cooking properly from scratch. I believe that tasty food cooked with passion and care is something that should be for everybody. Food and ingredients are valuable commodities that should be treated with respect, care and attention. Using what I learned working at five-star hotels and at high-end restaurants and caterers, my dream for WeeCOOK was to offer consistent, tasty well-prepared and presented food and friendly service to everyone.
“The golf club gives me the opportunity to be part of a community and give people jobs, which I love. But my favourite aspect of what I do is the cooking. I love cooking, serving customers and seeing them enjoy it. I take great satisfaction from that. If I can give someone what they want and exceed their expectations, then I know I’ve done my job.”
“This area of Scotland is like a larder. The producers and the produce that is created here is amazing.”
What is your greatest Memory of The Open?
“My abiding memory of The Open is when Padraig Harrington won. I remember it being such a big thing. I didn’t know too much about golf until I came here, but I remember we were glued to the television when it was all happening down the road at Carnoustie. That is my main memory. I like watching sporting events whether it’s golf, rugby or football – it’s a great excuse to be with people. That day we were drinking Irish cider so it might have been a lucky drink!”
How would you describe the golf in Carnoustie Country?
“It is absolutely beautiful. Just going for a walk out there, even if you’re not playing golf, it is so enjoyable. And it’s all-year round. But there is also a lot going on in golf clubs as they try to innovate.
“We’ve increased footfall to the club by promoting the food and our service, and I am constantly looking for ways to adapt and take advantage of the wonderful location we have at the Monifieth Links. The Broughty Golf club is known as the friendly club. That fits perfectly with WeeCOOK as we are inclusive to all. You can’t limit yourself by stereotyping a restaurant or a golf club. You’ve got a venue; use it, improvise, be brave and try new things. There’s a lot of truth in the saying: ‘Build it and they will come’.”
What have you learned about golf in Carnoustie Country?
“I went out with my clubs recently and borrowed some spare balls from the starter. It was the first time I had played for a long time. I only played seven holes and lost nine balls, so there’s definitely room for improvement on the course. Off the course, I’ve learned how precious some golf and club traditions are, and I’ve learned how to work with committees.”
What would you advise visitors to Carnoustie Country to do after their round of golf?
“Try to visit one of the Angus farmers’ markets. This area of Scotland is like a larder. The producers and the produce that is created here is amazing. Whether it’s the fish; the smokies, our pies, gin or the strawberries; what is grown and made here is marvelous. I sometimes get my friends from the farmers’ market to come to the golf club and have a mini market outside. It’s brilliant. We get strawberries, homebakes and pies, and donate some of the profits to local charities. Visitors should try to visit some of the smaller shops and businesses while they are here. There are some really good small businesses in Angus.”